Congress

Oversight Dems renew bid for Trump lease info

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) 

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is digging into potential conflicts posed by a Trump-owned hotel on government property

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has assembled a squad of legislators to extract information from the General Services Administration about the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Cummings, along with seven other members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is seeking documents from the GSA about the management of the Trump International Hotel in the government-owned Old Post Office Building in downtown Washington, D.C.

Under the "seven member rule," dating back to 1928, any executive branch agency can be compelled to release information, as long as seven or more members of the Oversight committee make the request. Seven lawmakers cosigned the letter along with Cummings.

Cummings has had a standing interest in probing the status of the Trump International Hotel.

Before running for president, Donald Trump won a contract to operate the hotel. The terms of the lease, however, include a standard provision forbidding an elected federal official from being the leaseholder. GSA is reviewing whether this presents a conflict. Additionally, Cummings and others have suggested that the receipt by a Trump-owned business of fees from foreign governments who use the hotel for events or visits could violate the Emoluments clause of the Constitution.

Cummings' Feb. 8 letter to GSA seeks reports on revenues and expenses from Trump to the GSA; any correspondence between the limited liability corporation that operates the hotel and the government regarding any liens placed against the hotel; correspondence between the Trump transition team and the government about "the apparent breach of the lease;" and other matters.

Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has requested and reportedly received an unredacted copy of the lease and other materials from GSA, although he has not revealed any plans to investigate the status of the lease. Efforts by committee Democrats to include oversight of the Old Post Office lease in the panel's formal oversight plans were rebuffed in late January on a party line vote

Chaffetz himself was summoned to the Oval Office for a half-hour meeting with Trump on Feb. 7, but the lawmaker told reporters that oversight was not on the agenda.

"Before my bum even hit the chair, the president said, 'No oversight. You can't talk about anything that has to do with oversight,'" Chaffetz said.

President Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., is currently the president of the company that operates the hotel, according to documents recently filed with the District of Columbia. However, the question of the president's ownership is still unresolved, and could represent a violation of the terms of the lease and present other conflicts, according to government ethics experts.

GSA is expected to rule on the question of the lease at some point. In January, when Trump announced that management of his businesses would fall to his sons Eric and Donald Jr., GSA said it planned to "review this new organizational structure and determine its compliance with all the terms and conditions of the lease."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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