Warren Refuses to Let Trump's Luxury Hotel Conflict Slide
If nothing changes, Trump will effectively be "landlord and tenant" of the International Hotel, violating numerous statutes
Drawing further attention to one the many business ventures likely to conflict with Donald Trump's responsibilities as president, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) are demanding information about a particular luxury hotel lease said to present an "unmanageable conflic[t] of interest" for the incoming administration.
In a strongly-worded letter (pdf) sent to the head of the General Services Administration (GSA) on Thursday, the senators ask that the office explain how they plan to address the situation, which will "effectively make President-elect Trump landlord and tenant" of the Trump International Hotel, a predicament that violates numerous federal laws.
As the letter explains,
In 2013, GSA negotiated a lease agreement with Trump Old Post Office, LLC- a private company owned by President-elect Trump and his adult children. Under the terms of this agreement, President-elect Trump committed $200 million to transform the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C., into a luxury hotel, and in return received the exclusive rights to run the hotel and retain all profits for a period of at least 60 years.
Not only does the lease explicitly state that no "elected official...shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease," but, as the letter notes, "[i]f the current lease agreement remains, President-elect Trump will receive compensation from the federal government separate from his annual salary, which is prohibited by the Constitution."
Should Trump retain ownership of the hotel, "that would mean the Trump organization would be negotiating annual rent payments with federal bureaucrats who work for Donald Trump," NBC explains.
What's more, the Washington Post recently reported that since the presidential election the International Hotel is "the place to be" for foreign diplomats.
But, as the letter notes, if the current lease remains, foreign governments would essentially be paying the president for their official representatives to stay at Trump International, which would be "in violation of the Emoluments Clause prohibition of payments from foreign governments."
The senators point to recent news that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, a country with a history of human rights abuses and an already controversial relationship with the U.S., is holding a major reception at the International in early December.
Despite the myriad conflicts, Trump has shrugged off concerns over the hotel, telling the New York Times last week:
They'll say I have a conflict because we just opened a beautiful hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, so every time somebody stays at that hotel, if they stay because I'm president, I guess you could say it's a conflict of interest. It's a conflict of interest, but again, I'm not going to have anything to do with the hotel, and they may very well. I mean it could be that occupancy at that hotel will be because, psychologically, occupancy at that hotel will be probably a more valuable asset now than it was before, O.K.? The brand is certainly a hotter brand than it was before. I can't help that, but I don't care.
Thus far, little official action has been taken to rectify Trump's business conflicts. The Democratic senators conclude the letter by saying that the GSA "needs to provide assurances to the American people that your agency will take whatever steps are necessary to protect taxpayer dollars and avoid any conflicts of interest."