The Inspector General of the General Services Administration (GSA) released a report Wednesday finding that the GSA chose to ignore the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution in its 2017 review of Trump International Hotel’s lease.
The report does not specifically address potential Emoluments Clause issues, but instead focuses on the decision making process of the GSA. The Emoluments Clause precludes the president and any federal office holder of the US from receiving any kind of present or gift from a foreign official or government. This report states “We initiated this evaluation based on numerous complaints from Members of Congress and the public about GSA’s management of the lease.” The report goes on to acknowledge that the GSA was aware of the possible Emoluments violations that the continued lease might entail, but decided not to factor these concerns into its review of the lease. The report concludes that as the GSA is a government agency, it was improper for the GSA to ignore potential Constitutional violations and recommends a new review of the lease with those considerations in mind.
The GSA administers the lease of certain federal buildings including the Old Post Office which currently houses Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. The Trump organization purchased the lease in 2014 originally. The lease was then reviewed by the GSA between 2016 and 2017 and a 2017 report was issued which approved the continuation of the lease. Since President Trump’s election, various lobbyists, foreign officials, and corporations have stayed at Trump Tower DC in an effort to curry favor with the administration. This has led to Constitutional questions as the Trump Organization directly profits off of those hotel stays.
At the end of the Inspector General’s report is the agency response to the report. The agency response notes that the events taking place in the report largely occurred before the new administration took office. The response also refers the Inspector General to DOJ reports and pending litigation (previously reported here by JURIST) which the agency claims has cleared both President Trump and the agency of any wrongdoing.