President Donald Trump is already in violation of the Constitution over a lease on his Washington, D.C. hotel, a government ethics watchdog warned on Friday.
The president owns more than three-quarters of the lease on Trump International Hotel, located in the federal Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue—a lease which bars elected officials from receiving "any share or part of [the Lease], or to any benefit that may arise therefrom," according to the group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
CREW filed a complaint (pdf) Friday with the lease-holding Government Services Administration (GSA), urging the agency to terminate the contract if the Trump Old Post Office LLC does not resolve the violation.
"The lease bans elected officials from benefiting to avoid conflicts of interest with their duties. We know Trump likes to renegotiate contracts for better deals. If that happened here, it will be the president negotiating against the government he leads. His best interests are not the same as those of the American tax payer," said CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder.
Moreover, the hotel could put Trump in violation of another Constitutional clause which aims to prevent foreign influence on U.S. politics.
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With foreign diplomats renting out space in the hotel, CREW says it's possible those transactions could be used to curry favor with the president.
"Now that he has taken the oath of office, President Trump stands in violation of the Constitution's emoluments clause," Bookbinder said. "He just swore on the Bible to 'preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,' but by continuing to accept payments from foreign governments, he has already failed."
"We do not yet know just to what extent this violation goes—because he is the first person elected to the presidency in decades to fail to clear the ethical bar of Richard Nixon and release his tax returns, much of his foreign business has remained secret. But we do know that there must be accountability for anyone, including the president, for violating the Constitution," Bookbinder said.
Watchdog groups have long warned that Trump's historic conflicts of interest could put him in violation of the Constitution on day one of his presidency.