Observers Call on the Federal Government to Stop Doing Business With the Trump Organization
The legal basis for a suspension is “clear cut,” said three signatories of a letter on Tuesday.
Federal procurement and oversight experts argued on Tuesday there is a “clear cut” case for the federal government to cease doing business with the Trump Organization.
Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight; and Steven Schooner, professor of procurement law at The George Washington University Law School, sent a letter to five federal agencies regarding the Trump Organization's lease with the General Services Administration for its hotel in downtown Washington, D.C., which has been subject to much scrutiny and controversy, as well as the organization’s operations as a whole.
“The legal basis for suspending the Trump Organization is clear cut—so clear that it is remarkable a suspension has not already been issued” following the 15-count indictment against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer in July, they wrote. This was for tax related crimes dating back 15 years (both the company and CFO pleaded not guilty).
“An indictment for such crimes explicitly qualifies as ‘adequate evidence’ for suspension under the governing [Federal Acquisition Regulation and Nonprocurement Common Rule] regulations,” Bookbinder, Brian and Schooner continued. “Trump Organization entities have also recently executed two multi-million-dollar settlements with the State of New York in cases involving claims of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and other serious wrongdoing.”
They added that on Friday, the House Oversight and Reform Committee released documents that showed Trump hid hundreds of millions of dollars in debts from GSA when bidding on the hotel lease, provided misleading information about the hotel’s financial situation, accepted millions of dollars in emoluments from foreign governments and more.
The letter was addressed to the suspension and debarment officials at GSA as well as at the Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Army and Interior departments, all of which have done business with entities of the Trump Organization over the years, as shown by a federal database.
“Any one of you may issue a governmentwide suspension and we implore you to do so immediately,” wrote Bookbinder, Brian and Schooner. Suspensions are temporary exclusions from doing business with the government when an investigation is ongoing and debarments are exclusions for a set period of time after an investigation or legal proceedings against a contractor. This can be for either procurement or nonprocurement (such as grants and cooperative agreement) situations.
“It is standard practice to suspend contractors under indictment,” said the letter. “In fact, the government suspends and debars thousands of contractors each year, including small businesses with limited financial means, based on allegations far less serious than the criminal charges facing the Trump Organization.”
VA, Interior and GSA said they had no comment. DHS did not respond for comment.
A U.S. Army spokesperson said, “cases sent to the Army requesting suspension and debarment action are carefully reviewed in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and coordinated, as appropriate, with other federal agencies which may have an interest in the matter or be the most appropriate lead agency for determination of the issue.”
It is clear that the “Trump Organization lacks business integrity and fails to meet the government’s requirements for suitable contractors,” said Bookbinder in a press release. “These indictments and settlements and the organization’s documented history of misconduct leave the federal government no choice but to immediately suspend the Trump Organization from present and future government contracts.”
The Trump Organization did not immediately respond for comment.
The D.C. hotel was not mentioned in the indictment; however, Government Executive spoke with experts (including Schooner) about what the indictment could mean for it, such as a possible suspension and debarment.
Previously, Schooner, along with Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert on government ethics, and Scott Amey, POGO general counsel, wrote in Government Executive in January 2020 that the Trump Organization should be banned from doing business with the federal government due to the first impeachment investigation as well as various lawsuits that raised issues about the company. Then Government Executive reported in January how the hotel lease was under renewed scrutiny following the Capitol insurrection on January 6, which led to Trump’s second impeachment in the House.
Over the past two years, the organization has intermittently tried to sell the lease. On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump Organization is now “in advanced discussions” with CGI Merchant Group, a Miami-based investment firm, to sell the hotel lease in a deal worth more than $370 million.
Update: This article has been updated with comment from the U.S. Army.