Dems Raise Questions While Trump Hotel Seeks Federal Bailout
The House Oversight Committee is demanding the Trump Hotel’s federal government landlord explain any discussions with President Trump's company to cut him a break on rent.
Trump's properties were expressly excluded from Congress's multi-trillion dollar coronavirus bailouts, but reports surfaced recently that Eric Trump is trying to negotiate new rental terms for Trump's Washington, D.C., establishment housed in the government-owned historic Old Post Office. The Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged the entire hospitality industry. Trump's marquee property just blocks from the White House has not been spared. but it's on the hook to the General Services Administration for about $268,000 a month. Trump's son, Eric, told the New York Times that the company is not looking for any special treatment, but wants the agency that his father oversees to treat his dad's company just like any other. Oversight Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and the chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), said in a letter sent Wednesday that such claims are ridiculous. "The President’s businesses are not the same as any other business -— thanks to his decision to break with decades of precedent and maintain extensive private business interests while serving in the nation’s highest office," the wrote to GSA administrator Emily Murphy. "This President is no ordinary federal tenant: he oversees the agency responsible for managing the government’s properties, including the lease on the Trump Hotel," they wrote. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) added a provision to the first $2.3 trillion CARES Act that bars Trump and his relatives -- as well as top administration officials and members of Congress -- from getting coronavirus relief under the bill. While Eric Trump's apparent efforts to get a rent reduction from the federal government might not fall under the CARES Act, Connolly and Maloney point out it was a clear statement that Congress doesn't want Trump to use his position to advantage his businesses. "Congress has declared in no uncertain terms that the president and his businesses must not receive any favors from the federal government," they wrote. Ethics experts and members of Congress flagged President Trump's ownership of a sprawling hotel empire early on as both a massive potential conflict of interest and a violation of the Constitution's Emoluments Clauses, which bar the president from taking anything of value from foreign governments or from the federal government. They also pointed to federal rules that bar the GSA from renting to federal officials. Yet, Trump never divested his properties and the GSA decided to ignore the rule against signing leases with federal officials, The Oversight Committee has been investigating the D.C. hotel arrangement for three years, but has yet to get the information it has sought on how and why the GSA decided it was OK to maintain a lease with its boss, the president. Maloney and Connolly are seeking all of the information they have yet to receive, as well as "all documents and communications between GSA and any employee or representative of the Trump Organization or the Trump Old Post Office LLP referring or relating to any effort to amend or renegotiate the terms" of Trump's D.C. lease. They also want to know what criteria would be used to decide if Trump can have a rate cut, and who would make the decision.
The General Services Administration did not immediately answer a request for comment.