President Donald Trump’s Washington hotel is not violating federal conflict of interest rules, according to the General Services Administration.
“Based on my review of the Lease, discussions with Tenant, and documents submitted by Tenant, I have determined that Tenant is in full compliance,” GSA Contracting Officer Kevin Terry wrote. “Accordingly, the Lease is valid and in full force and effect.”
The lease for the Old Post Office Building Trump renovated for his Trump International Hotel prevents government officials from profiting from the lease. The hotel opened in October.
Terry’s letter said the Trump Organization met the terms of the lease because Trump had resigned and the restructuring of the company denies him any profits from the hotel while he is in office.
“In other words, during his term in office, the president will not receive any distributions from the trust that would have been generated from the hotel,” Terry explained.
Terry also praised the project.
“Thus the lease turned a building that had been costing taxpayers millions of dollars per year into a revenue-generating asset,” he wrote.
The Trump Organization issued a statement thanking the GSA “for their diligent review of this matter.”
“We are immensely proud of this property and look forward to providing our guests with an unrivaled luxury experience for years to come,” the statement said.
The lease had been one item Trump’s critics used to attack the president by saying he was violating the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution. Trump’s opponents have said that because he violates that clause, he should be impeached.
“The economic benefit from this lease goes to him whether or not the hotel LLC holds onto it and no matter how many trusts they form to hold the hotel or to hold the money. The focus should be on the economic reality of the transaction and it is very clear what that is. He gets the profits from this lease,” said Richard W. Painter, the lead White House ethics attorney for former President George W. Bush, who was among those leading the lawsuit to impeach Trump. The lawsuit is pending in the Southern District of New York.
The ruling did not satisfy House Democrats opposed to Trump, either.
The agency “changed the position it held before President Trump took office,” Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, said in a statement.
“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. This is exactly what the lease provision was supposed to prevent,” they said.
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