Democrats: Agency Says Trump Must Sell Stake In Washington Hotel
A federal agency has determined that President-elect Donald Trump must sell his stake in his luxury Washington hotel, House Democrats said Wednesday.
Trump leases the property from the government. If he doesn’t sell it, the General Services Administration will consider Trump in breach of the lease the moment he is sworn in on January 20, the Democrats said.
The Democrats, part of the House Oversight Committee, had demanded to know what the GSA planned to do about the conflict of interest posed by the hotel, which Trump opened in a renovated historic post office.
The GSA’s deputy commissioner “made clear that Mr. Trump must divest himself not only of managerial control, but of all ownership interest as well,” said a letter from Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the committee.
Because Trump will oversee the GSA as president, his election puts him in the extraordinary position of being both landlord and tenant. The lease, signed by Trump two years before he launched his campaign, says that no elected official can be party to the agreement.
The exact language is: “No member or delegate to Congress or elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share of part of this Lease.”
The GSA commissioner also said that Trump’s transition team has not been in touch with the GSA about the conflict, the Democrats said.
Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, told reporters the matter would be addressed at a press conference the president-elect promises to hold in January. Trump, who has not held a press conference since July, promised one for this week but postponed it.
The GSA had no immediate comment.
A legal dispute over a breach of the lease would probably go before the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, an administrative tribunal independent from the GSA.
Trump’s ownership of the hotel, blocks from the White House, is already raising concerns that foreign governments and American business leaders will seek to curry favor with the new president by booking rooms and holding events there.
On December 7, the Embassy of Bahrain hosted a reception at the hotel to mark a national holiday.
The embassy later put out a statement saying that the hotel simply provided “an exceptional hall” at a reasonable cost.
The hotel is a prominent example of the unprecedented potential for conflicts between Trump’s business holdings around the world and his responsibility as president.
The president-elect has said he will turn over managerial responsibility to his two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, but he has given no indication that he will sell his stake in any property.
Experts on government ethics have said that selling everything, and putting the money in the hands of a trustee who can manage it without Trump’s knowledge, is the only way to be sure that personal profit motive is not coloring his decisions about U.S. policy.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka was the GSA’s main contact during negotiations on the lease, according to the Democrats.
“In other words,” the Democrats said in a press release, “Ms. Trump is all of the following — the President-elect’s daughter, a top presidential transition team official, a lessee under the contract the GSA oversees, and the primary contact for GSA on the lease. The conflicts of interest are obvious.”