A contracting officer from the US General Services Administration [government website] sent a letter [text, PDF] to Donald Trump, Jr., on Thursday finding that the Trump Organization did not violate the lease it holds for the Trump International Hotel [website] in Washington, DC. According to the letter, the GSA began fielding questions regarding a potential violation of section 37.19 of the lease [text, PDF], which states that no “elected official of the Government of the United States… shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom,” when Donald Trump was elected president in November. Kevin Terry, the administration official who authored the letter, said the lease is “valid and in full force and effect” following no finding of a violation. He also laid out the corporate structure of Trump Old Post Office LLC, with membership including his children Ivanka, Donald Jr., and Eric, but not the president himself. Terry’s letter expresses appreciation for the President’s cooperation in the matter, and approbation regarding the apparent success of the hotel.
Even prior to actually opening the hotel and generating any revenues, Tenant began making payments to GSA under the Lease in the amount of $250,000 per month. By the time of the hotel’s official opening, GSA and the taxpayers had already received approximately $5.1 million. Thus, the Lease turned a building that had been costing taxpayers millions of dollars per year into a revenue-generating asset.
The GSA manages federal property on behalf of the government, including the historic Old Post Office [materials] where the Trump hotel is located.
A number of bi-partisan experts have expressed concerns over potential ethical issues being faced by Trump. In January, The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in federal court claiming President Trump’s continued business dealings violate the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution. Two government ethics lawyers [WP report] who counseled both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have voiced concerns over Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax returns which, they argue, leads to an inability to ensure the actions of the new administration will be conflict-free. Concerns have also been voiced over the more than 4,000 open lawsuits [USA Today report] involving Trump and his businesses. Numerous US senators have also voiced concerns over Trump’s Cabinet apointees [WP report], including reports that some have failed to pay federal and state taxes, a factor which has caused nominees of previous administrations to withdraw their nomination.