GSA official who cleared Trump’s DC hotel called potential conflicts of interest “nonsense”

Critics say it shows the GSA didn't take the ethical concerns about the lease seriously

Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Getty Images)
Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Getty Images)

The General Services Administration employee who allowed President Trump to keep his lease at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., previously described potential conflicts of interest as “nonsense,” released emails have now revealed.

The GSA’s Kevin Terry wrote to the Trump Organization in March to inform it that the D.C. hotel, which is on government land, is in “full compliance” with lease requirements that no government official be involved with or benefit from the contract. Ethics experts still argue the president’s company is overseeing a contract that financially benefits Trump while in office, even if he doesn’t get any of that money until he leaves office.

However, emails obtained by Bloomberg show that days after Trump’s election win, Terry forwarded a BuzzFeed article referring to the potential conflict of interest to the Trump Organization. In the email he wrote “FYI – A fair amount of nonsense.” The email also went to two other GSA employees, according to the publication. The email was released following a Freedom of Information request from a member of the public, and the recipient of the email was redacted. The request was for communications between Terry and Trump’s children Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

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Following Terry’s decision about the hotel, a coalition of ethicists, government watchdog groups and liberal organizations wrote to the GSA inspector general to ask for a review. Representatives of some of the groups told Bloomberg that the revelation of Terry’s email would strengthen their case.

The email shows that “very early on GSA didn’t take the potential of a conflict of interest very seriously,” Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, told the publication.

The Trump Organization is reportedly looking for a second location for a D.C. hotel, as part of a plan to expand its Scion brand. [Bloomberg]Miriam Hall