Pressure continues to build on the General Services Administration to decide whether President-elect Donald Trump can keep unaltered the lease his company signed in 2013 to convert Washington's Old Post Office Building into a luxury hotel.
The ranking Democrats on two House panels wrote to GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth Wednesday demanding answers by Dec. 7 on how the government’s landlord plans to handle the unprecedented “imminent breach-of-lease and conflict of interest issues" created by Trump’s agreement with the government, which bars any “elected official of the government of the United States” from deriving “any benefit” from the lease.
“We do not see this as an ambiguous provision, but as a strict and categorical ban,” wrote Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Gerry Connolly, D-Va., of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and André Carson, D-Ind., of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “The contractual breach threatened by Mr. Trump’s swearing-in is compounded by the general and egregious conflict of interest posed by his appointing the GSA administrator who will oversee this lease with his hotel.”
Their letter follows a widely read analysis on Government Executive by federal procurement experts decrying the arrangement in which Trump is “both landlord and tenant” and asking GSA to cancel the 60-year, $180 million arrangement.
The Trump transition media affairs staff on Tuesday promised Government Executive to check with counsel on the issue but have not released any response.
GSA this week reiterated a response it gave Government Executive two weeks ago, in which it said the bidding process that began in 2008 was a fair competition and referred readers to relevant documents detailing the agreement.
The Democratic lawmakers, who copied their Republican chairmen on the letter, said GSA has authority under Article 5.3 of the lease to obtain “detailed information” from Mr. Trump about “the financial affairs of tenant.” As a result, they wrote, GSA can inquire now as to how Mr. Trump plans to address this conflict of interest and divest himself of all benefits from the lease. Under the agreement, Trump is obligated to make monthly and financial reports to GSA along with an annual statement, that could address new circumstances that might require a default, the lawmakers said.
They asked for copies of communications, if any, between Trump representatives and GSA since his announcement of his presidential candidate addressing the conflict-of-interest questions, including unredacted copies of the lease. They also asked what information GSA has solicited from the Trump organization and what GSA plans to do to resolve the controversy.