Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Ranking Member Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) have written to the General Services Administration Inspector General Carol Ochoa, asking her office to review the GSA’s lease with President Donald Trump’s of the Old Post Office building, now the Trump International Hotel. Democratic lawmakers in both houses have been writing to GSA for weeks for an answer to whether Trump’s involvement with his business presents a conflict of interest now that he’s president.
The lease, with Trump signed in 2013, reads, in part:
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; provided, however, that this provision shall not be construed as extending to any Person who may be a shareholder or other beneficial owner of any publicly held corporation or other entity, if this Lease is for the general benefit of such corporation or other entity.
The letter notes that while President Trump has resigned from his positions within his business, he has not divested his ownership. The senators write: “As such, President Trump is now effectively both landlord and tenant of the Old Post Office Building, creating significant complications for the management of a federal building under a program designed “to maximize asset income and provide value to the Federal Buildings Fund and taxpayers.… Despite the warning signs from Members of Congress and ethics watchdogs, GSA chose not to take any action to address or enforce this provision of the lease or the other steps to mitigate the difficulties the lease creates for GSA and other government officials who oversee management of the agreement.”
GSA did release a statement at the end of January, effectively changing nothing, stating they have received new information and are reviewing and evaluating that information. Democrats are clearly frustrated with what they see as a dragging of heels at GSA, particularly now that Trump is president.
Update: President Trump has now signed over control of the lease to his son, Donald Trump, Jr., though critics claim the move just transfers control, not ownership. House Democrats have also ordered GSA to release correspondence regarding the lease.