Trump hotel probes continue amid sales report

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Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are continuing their investigation into the Trump Organization’s controversial lease with the federal government for its Washington DC hotel, following the announcement on Sunday that an outside group is acquiring the lease.

The Wall Street Journal Miami-based investment firm CGI Merchant Group reported on Sunday to acquire the lease for the Trump International Hotel, located in downtown DC in a building leased by the General Service Administration. “CGI intends to remove Trump’s name and has entered into an agreement with Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. to have the property branded and managed by Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria group,” the report said. The Trump organization tried to sell the lease, which raised many concerns about potential conflicts of interest and violations of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution while President Trump was in office, over the years. last two years. The GSA’s management and oversight of the lease during the Trump administration also came under scrutiny.

“The oversight committee continues to investigate serious conflicts of interest and potential constitutional violations raised by Donald Trump’s lease of this hotel to the federal government while he was president,” a House spokesperson said. Oversight and Reform Committee. Government executive in a statement on Monday, when asked how, if anything, the upcoming sale would impact the committee’s investigations.

“Former President Trump’s attempt to take advantage of the presidency has sparked an ethical crisis that will not be fully resolved by the sale of this hotel,” the spokesperson continued. “We need full transparency and legislative action to prevent future presidents from using the civil service for private gain.”

The Trump Organization, CGI, and GSA had not responded to comments at the time of this article’s publication.

“[Trump] should have gotten rid of [the hotel] as well as the rest of his companies before he took office, ”Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in a statement following the report. “Instead, he spent four years using it for influence peddling and constitutional violations. The Trump Hotel DC was an illuminated neon sign telling foreign countries and financial interests how to bribe the president and a stark reminder to Americans that his decisions as president were just as likely to concern his bottom line as our interests. ”

The bookbinder added that “selling it now that he is no longer in office and the money has dried up is, to say the least, too little, too late.” “

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also investigated the lease and GSA’s management of it. A spokesperson for the committee said Government executive, “I don’t expect the sale of the lease to have an impact on the work or the conclusions of the committee. ”

GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan explained how the agency is approaching the lease under his tenure during a hearing for the Transport Committee’s Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Committee on November 2 .

“I know this is an important topic. I know there are a lot of stories about this that predate my arrival at GSA four months ago and I have great respect for the oversight role of Congress in all of this, ”she said. . “I asked the team to ensure that the tenant fully complies with all of their lease obligations and that we at GSA are as transparent as possible with the committee and their oversight requests and always focused. on doing everything possible to protect the interests of the public in all ways. So I can’t go back to things that have happened in the past, but I can make a commitment that in the future I’m very interested in making sure we have the right procedures in place to that kind of contracts and that the role of Congress in it is one that is appropriate.

Democrats on the House Monitoring and Reform Committee released documents last month that raised what they called “new and troubling questions” about the lease.

“The committee found that President Trump had provided misleading information about the financial condition of the Trump Hotel in his annual financial statements; received undisclosed preferential treatment from a foreign bank on a $ 170 million hotel loan that the president personally guaranteed; accepted millions of dollars in emoluments from foreign governments without providing any justification for the source or purpose of the money; concealed hundreds of millions of dollars in GSA debt during the tender for the lease of the old post office building; and made it impossible for GSA to properly enforce the conflict of interest restrictions of the lease by engaging in opaque transactions with other affiliated entities, ”wrote representatives Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., chair of the committee , and Gerry Connolly, D-Va. , chair of the government operations committee panel, in a letter to the GSA administrator. Additionally, the hotel lost over $ 70 million when Trump was in power.

Shortly after the publication of the documents, Bookbinder; Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Government Oversight Project; and Steven Schooner, professor of government procurement law at George Washington University Law School, called on the federal government to stop doing business with the Trump Organization, arguing that “the legal basis for suspending the Trump Organization is clear, so clear that It’s amazing. a stay has yet to be imposed ”following the 15-count indictment against the Trump Organization and its CFO in July. The indictment concerned tax crimes dating back 15 years (the company and the CFO pleaded not guilty).

News of lease sale comes after DC Attorney General Karl Racine says November 9 his lawsuit, filed in January 2020, against the Trump Hotel and Trump’s inaugural committee, will be tried.

“There is a lot of evidence that the committee illegally enriched the Trump family, the opposite of what a nonprofit is supposed to do,” Racine said in a tweet. “My office is trying to get $ 1 million back.

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said, “Our case will continue to move forward whether or not the Trump Hotel is sold.”



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