Deny Trump hotel’s rent relief request, House Oversight says to GSA

Trump, excluded from coronavirus aid, could expose a loophole in the aid bills if relief is granted

The clock tower of the Trump International Hotel. The hotel apparently asked for rent relief amid the coronavirus pandemic, sparking concerns from some House Democrats.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The clock tower of the Trump International Hotel. The hotel apparently asked for rent relief amid the coronavirus pandemic, sparking concerns from some House Democrats. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 22, 2020 at 12:15pm

Leaders of the House Oversight Committee are asking the General Services Administration to “stand up to the President” and deny his company’s apparent request for rent relief at the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington.

The statement was released after media outlets reported the Trump company sought a break on lease payments for its Washington hotel as losses amid the coronavirus pandemic continue to mount. The president is excluded from receiving aid from the recently passed coronavirus aid programs, but allowing the company to get a break on rent could expose a loophole in the aid bills.

[Ethics guidance on coronavirus relief package: Lawmakers may be able to apply for some loans]

The hotel is located in the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue and leased from the GSA. The New York Times reports annual rent is at least $3 million. It has been a target by Democrats and others concerned about preferential treatment possibly being granted by the government to President Donald Trump’s business interests.

“Our Committee and ethics experts across the political spectrum have long warned of these blatant conflicts of interest, and it is time for GSA to finally stand up to the President and grant no rent reductions for the Trump Hotel,” the statement said.

The statement was sent by Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney of New York and Virginia Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations. A committee spokeswoman did not elaborate on what actions the committee would take on the matter beyond making the statement.

Trump has retained an interest in his business empire, against the advice of government ethics experts, and put it in a trust managed by his sons Donald Jr. and Eric.

A GSA report in January of last year suggested in a report that a contract between the agency and the Trump International Hotel could be in violation of the Constitution.

The hotel has become popular among conservative media, lawmakers, and lobbyists. Foreign government officials also spend money at the hotel, which could be a possible violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. It prohibits the president from accepting emoluments — payments from foreign governments and their agents.

[Supreme Court to hear oral arguments by telephone in May]

“As soon as Donald Trump was sworn in as President, his lease with the federal government for the Trump Hotel should have ended because it explicitly bars contracts with public officials," the statement said. “Instead, President Trump has been violating this contract for three years while GSA ignores the law.”

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on subpoenas from Oversight to accounting firm Mazars USA, seeking Trump’s financial and tax records. The committee argues it has legitimate interests in investigating the accuracy of Trump’s financial disclosures and the lease of the Old Post Office Building as the site of the Trump International Hotel.

The arguments will be held via telephone conference during a two-week period that starts May 4. The cases were postponed because of COVID-19 health concerns.

Todd Ruger contributed to this story.