President-elect Donald Trump’s long-awaited unveiling on Wednesday of his plans for addressing conflict-of-interest risks from his multi-billion-dollar business holdings did little to nudge the General Services Administration toward a solution to one of its more vexing policy conundrums.
The 60-year lease that private citizen Trump signed with GSA in 2013 that allowed his company to renovate Washington’s Old Post Office Building as a luxury hotel has prompted criticism since his election as president because ethics rules prohibit a federal employee from benefiting from a federal property.
Two hours after Trump’s press conference, GSA—which had been struggling for a response to the unprecedented situation-- released an updated statement.
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“GSA understands that an announcement has been made to change the business structure of the Trump Organization,” it said. “We are seeking additional information that explains and describes any new organizational structure as it applies to the Old Post Office lease. Upon receipt, consistent with our treatment of any contract to which we are a party, we will review this new organizational structure and determine its compliance with all the terms and conditions of the lease.”
The agency reiterated the legal language it is working with: “No member or delegate to Congress, or elected official of the Government of the United States or the Government of the District of Columbia, shall be admitted to any share or part of this lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom; provided, however, that this provision shall not be construed as extending to any person who may be a shareholder or other beneficial owner of any publicly held corporation or other entity, if this lease is for the general benefit of such corporation or other entity."
One hotel-related aspect that Trump did touch on was his promise to divert the revenue from stays in all his hotels by foreign leaders to the U.S. Treasury, to get around the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.