Donald Trump’s newly opened D.C. hotel operates out of the historic Old Post Office Pavilion, which is owned by the government and managed by the General Services Administration (a bureaucracy that handles real-estate for Uncle Sam).
Trump secured the right to develop his luxury establishment within those celebrated confines by entering into a 60-year, $180 million lease with the GSA. That lease bars any “elected official” from being “admitted to any share or part of this Lease or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.”
On January 20, Donald Trump will become an elected official. And he owns 77 percent of the entity leasing the hotel, according to GSA records obtained by BuzzFeed.
Thus, should the president-elect fail to divest from the hotel before assuming the Oval Office, he would be in violation of his lease.
Or so most legal analysts have argued. There is still some uncertainty about whether Trump’s landlord will decide to give him a break.
Specifically, some experts on government contracting have suggested that the provision doesn’t bar an elected official from owning a share of the lease — it only bars him or her from being admitted into the lease. Which is to say: It prohibits elected officials from gaining a share, but doesn’t prevent people who signed on as private citizens from retaining their share upon assuming public office.
On Wednesday, four Democratic members of Congress — Elijah Cummings, Peter DeFazio, Gerald Connolly, and Andre Carson — said the GSA has concluded that Trump cannot retain his financial interest in the hotel while serving as president.
“The Deputy Commissioner informed our staff that GSA assesses that Mr. Trump will be in breach of the lease agreement the moment he takes office on January 20, 2017, unless he fully divests himself of all financial interests in the lease for the Washington, D.C. hotel,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth (which doubled as a press release).
However, the GSA subsequently denied that it had reached this assessment.
Shortly after Trump’s victory, the GSA said that it planned to “coordinate with the president-elect’s team to address any issues that may be related to the Old Post Office building.” According to Democrats’ letter, the GSA never received a substantive response from Trump’s transition team on the issue.
Late last month, the president-elect announced that he would hold a press conference this Thursday to detail his plans for extricating himself from his vast web of business interests. But Trump postponed the event earlier this week, for unstated reasons.
In place of that press conference, Trump offered some tweets.