A contracting officer at the General Services Administration wrote to the Trump Organization yesterday, informing the company that the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which sits on government land, is in “full compliance” with lease requirements stipulating that no government officials be involved with or benefit from the contract.
After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, House Democrats claimed they had been briefed by a GSA official who told them that a President Trump would immediately be in violation of rules prohibiting the Old Post Office tenant from being a government official. The GSA then denied having taken this position and has remained silent on the issue up until now.
The hotel, which Trump spent $200 million converting from a landmarked post office building, is currently in the control of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, which documents show is managed by Donald Trump, Jr. and company CFO Allen Weisselberg. The president is the sole beneficiary of this trust and the arrangement can be dissolved at his bidding. The company also reportedly restructured the operation of the hotel so that the trust would not directly benefit from hotel profits.
Kevin Terry, the GSA officer who penned Thursday’s letter to the Trump Organization, argued that because “during his term in office, the president will not receive any distributions from the trust that would have been generated from the hotel,” no violations have occurred, according to the Washington Post.
Ethics experts beg to differ and have continually pointed out the fact that the president is overseeing a contract that is financially benefitting him while in office, even if he doesn’t happen to touch that money until the day he leaves the White House.
Democratic congressmen Elijah Cummings and Peter DeFazio called GSA’s conclusions “meaningless.” They said that because the Trump Organization can keep money in the hotel, an investment that still helps Trump down the line, the essential conflict of interest has not been addressed.
“This decision allows profits to be reinvested back into the hotel so Donald Trump can reap the financial benefits when he leaves the White House,” the congressmen wrote. “This is exactly what the lease provision was supposed to prevent.”
The actual language from the lease is as follows: “No member or delegate to Congress, or elected official of the Government of the United States or the Government of the District of Columbia, shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.” [Washington Post] — Will Parker