Lawmakers Press GSA on Trump Hotel’s Request for Financial Relief During Pandemic
This comes as a federal appeals court revives an Emoluments Clause lawsuit involving the hotel.
House Democrats are pressing the General Services Administration for information on the Trump Organization’s request for rent relief during the pandemic for its hotel in a federally leased building. GSA is working on a response to one of two inquiries, according to a House committee.
The Trump Organization, for which President Trump’s sons run the daily operations, asked GSA to treat it like other federal tenants and provide financial relief during the pandemic, The New York Times reported on April 21. The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., is located in the Old Post Office Building on a GSA lease that the organization is looking to sell. Following the news about the request for financial relief, two House committees pressed GSA for information on the potential conflict of interest.
“We are writing in order to get assurances from you that GSA will not give preferential treatment to President Trump’s business in light of the many conflict of interest issues we have been raising since before the start of the Trump administration,” wrote Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; and Dina Titus, D-Nev., chairwoman of the panel’s Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management subcommittee, on April 23. “In addition, any federal financial benefits to the Trump International Hotel may be in violation of the Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.”
The lawmakers repeated their assertion that the president is “serving as both tenant and landlord” for the hotel. They also pointed out the hotel is banned from receiving relief loans from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act under a conflict-of-interest provision.
According to the committee, GSA did not respond to its questions by the May 7 deadline regarding requests from the Trump Organization, the company’s financial hardships and escrow agreement, and GSA’s considerations for rent abatements for other leases in which 20% or more of a federal building is outleased.
“Our deadline has come and gone for a response from GSA on reports the Trump Organization is looking for rent relief for its lease of the taxpayer-owned Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C., for the Trump International Hotel amid COVID-19 concerns,” a committee aide told Government Executive on Monday. “We’re disappointed, but not surprised, that GSA continues to stonewall any inquiries into the Trump Hotel. We are eagerly awaiting their response on this matter.”
The House Oversight and Reform Committee also pressed GSA for information on the Trump Organization's request for relief in a letter on April 29. The committee’s deadline for GSA to respond to its questions was May 13. The agency said it is working on a response, a committee aide told Government Executive on Tuesday.
“This [New York Times] report highlights the disturbing conflicts of interest presented when President Trump maintains private ownership interests that place him on both sides of the federal government’s dealings,” wrote Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, and Gerry Connolly, D-Va., chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee. “Our committee and ethics experts across the political spectrum have long warned of these blatant conflicts of interest and potential for self-dealing.
The General Services Administration did not respond to requests from Government Executive for comment on either letter.
These inquiries come as a federal appeals court in Virginia voted on May 14 to revive a lawsuit by the District of Columbia and Maryland accusing President Trump of violating the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause by profiting off the D.C. hotel. The clause prohibits the president from receiving payments beyond his salary from federal, state or foreign governments and the lawsuit is one of several that charged the president with a violation. Jay Sekulow, an attorney for Trump, told Politico the administration will be asking the Supreme Court to review the case.