The Old Post Office Pavilion in 2015, as it was undergoing renovation to become the Trump International Hotel.

The Old Post Office Pavilion in 2015, as it was undergoing renovation to become the Trump International Hotel. EQRoy/

Lawmakers Continue Challenging GSA on Trump Hotel Deal

Sen. Carper calls for Public Works panel to probe possible conflicts of interest.

In the month since President Trump won the General Services Administration’s approval to keep his controversial Washington hotel lease, lawmakers and ethics advocates have kept up pressure on Trump to rethink the unprecedented arrangement.

Concerned about Trump’s post-election role as “both landlord and tenant” of the luxury Trump International Hotel in Washington’s Old Post Office Pavilion, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., on Tuesday asked the chairman of his Environment and Public Works Committee to open a new probe.

“When an agency undertakes an investigation into conflicts of interest, the public expects it to be conducted thoroughly,” Carper said in a statement. “Unfortunately, in its review of the Trump hotel lease, it appears as though GSA missed—or ignored—crucial details” on whether Trump is personally benefiting from the private events and foreign government guests who patronize the hotel.

Carper commended a newly released detailed legal argument made in letter from the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington—which for months has blasted Trump’s arrangement for the hotel—to panel chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo.

“It is now clear from CREW’s analysis that President Trump can financially benefit from his lease of the Old Post Office Building because the lease is retained in a trust that President Trump continues to control and may access at any time,” Carper said.

“Moreover, CREW also noted other ways the president may be directly benefiting from the lease, such as through the purchase of Trump-branded wine, coffee and other food products for the hotel and through principal payments on loans held by the president that could reduce his debt or free up his collateral for future business ventures. GSA appears to have failed to look into these key points and was entirely unable to justify its determination to me and my staff on multiple occasions,” Carper said. “Making a determination with incomplete information and no legal basis is unacceptable and warrants further review.”

The committee’s Republican spokesman, Mike Danylak, was not persuaded: “The General Services Administration has a thorough process for determining if their tenants are in compliance with the law. The GSA has followed its regular process in this case and determined that Trump Old Post Office, LLC is in compliance. If new facts arise, the committee will review them,” he told Government Executive.

The CREW attorneys argued that the decision to allow Trump to keep his hotel lease made last month by GSA contracting officer Kevin Terry “provided no legal analysis” and was “inconsistent” with what Deputy Public Buildings Service Commissioner Michael Gelber told lawmakers privately in December, which suggested that Trump would be in breach if he did not divest his holdings from the hotel two blocks from the White House.

In January, Trump sought to head off the ethics criticism of his handling of his entire business empire while serving as president by pledging to donate all profits from foreign government guests at the Washington hotel to the U.S. Treasury. He said the Trump Organization would hire an ethics officer and chief compliance officer to approve all deals and prevent potentially unconstitutional “emoluments” from benefiting Trump. In March, Trump’s business said it was ready to begin donations by the end of 2017.

But that hasn’t satisfied House members of either party on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Last Friday, Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., announced that they had written to Trump business attorney Sheri Dillon requesting documents on Trump’s plan to donate hotel profits to the government. They want to know the “mechanics” of the arrangement, including how profits are to be calculated, tracked and reported, and whether the president planned to claim tax deductions.

“Additional details of the plan to donate profits derived from foreign government payments, however, are still unclear,” they wrote. “Meanwhile, recent news accounts have reported that the Trump Organization may have received payments from foreign government sources since President Trump’s inauguration.” Cummings and Chaffetz seek answers from Trump’s attorney by May 12.

Image via EQRoy/