Documents Raise ‘New and Troubling Questions’ on Trump Hotel Lease, Lawmakers Say
House Democrats are asking GSA for more information following revelations on Friday.
Top House Democrats are pressing the General Services Administration for more information about the Trump hotel in a GSA-leased building after documents released on Friday raised what they called “new and troubling questions.”
Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee released three sets of documents on Friday regarding the Trump Organization's hotel in Washington, D.C., located in a GSA-leased building. It was the subject of much scrutiny during the Trump administration due to concerns of conflicts of interests and alleged lax oversight by GSA.
“The committee found that President Trump provided misleading information about the financial situation of the Trump Hotel in his annual financial disclosures; received undisclosed preferential treatment from a foreign bank on a $170 million loan to the hotel that the president personally guaranteed; accepted millions of dollars in emoluments from foreign governments without providing an accounting of the money’s source or purpose; concealed hundreds of millions of dollars in debts from GSA when bidding on the Old Post Office Building lease; and made it impossible for GSA to properly enforce the lease’s conflict-of-interest restrictions by engaging in opaque transactions with other affiliated entities,” wrote Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., committee chairwoman, and Gerry Connolly, D-Va., chairman of the committee’s panel on Government Operations, in a letter to GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan on Friday. Also, the hotel lost more than $70 million when Trump was in office.
These documents–– provided to the committee in July–– “raise new and troubling questions” about Trump’s lease and how GSA worked to manage conflicts of interest, the lawmakers continued. Therefore, the committee is asking GSA for additional documents by October 22 in order “to investigate and legislate on the pressing issue of presidential ethics and to prevent future presidents from profiting off the office of the presidency,” as well as “identify and remediate the conflicts of interest that arise when the president or his businesses enter into a private contract with the United States or any of its agencies.”
A GSA spokesperson told Government Executive in a statement, "GSA values its relationship with Congress and looks forward to continuing to work with the committee on this and other matters." The Trump Organization did not immediately respond for comment.
Carnahan is Biden’s nominee for GSA administrator, and therefore was not in office during the Trump administration. Emily Murphy was the head of GSA under Trump.
Several House committees have been investigating GSA’s handling of the hotel lease for years and have been met with many roadblocks. This is “the first time that congressional investigators have reviewed and released details of the former president's financial information,” CNN pointed out. “The Manhattan district attorney and New York attorney general investigators have reviewed Trump's financials, but none of that has been made public.”
On July 1, a 15-count indictment was brought against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer for tax related crimes dating back 15 years; both the company and CFO pleaded not guilty. The D.C. hotel was not mentioned; however, Government Executive spoke with experts about what the indictment could mean for it.
Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel for the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Government Executive determining if the indictment will impact the lease is “not an easy question.” However, it “really raises questions about whether or not the Trump Organization has what is referred to as ‘present responsibility’ to perform its obligations under the Old Post Office lease.”
In reference to the counts of falsifying business records, “If they’re doing it at the top level, maybe they’re doing it at another level as well?” she asked. Also, Canter said she would like to know what GSA is doing to “ensure that the government’s interest, the public’s interests, taxpayers' interests are being protected in terms of the administration of this lease.”
This article has been updated with comment from GSA.