House Democrats said in a Wednesday letter that a federal agency informed Congress that President-elect Donald Trump will be in violation of a government contract unless he relinquishes his ownership stake in his brand-new Washington, DC, hotel before his inauguration.
The letter came weeks following a request from Democratic lawmakers to the General Services Administration, the federal agency which leased the property — the taxpayer-owned Old Post Office — to Trump, to assess whether Trump would have to step away from the property.
The lease stipulated that no elected official could hold the lease, which Trump had signed well prior to his being elected president last month. The GSA said, according to the letter, that Trump would be given 30 days to resolve the issue following his inauguration before being brought in front of the US Civilian Board of Contract Appeals
“Most importantly, the deputy commissioner informed our staff that GSA assesses that Mr. Trump will be in breach of the lease agreement the moment he takes office on January 20, 2017, unless he fully divests himself of all financial interests in the lease for the Washington DC hotel,” the four Democratic lawmakers, which included Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, wrote. “The Deputy commissioner made clear that Mr. Trump must divest himself not only of managerial control, but of all ownership interest as well.”
The GSA said Trump’s team had not responded to inquiries about the matter, according to the letter. It also made clear that the contract would be breached if Trump had his adult children run the hotel.
As president, Trump is be able to appoint a new head of the GSA.
Speaking to CNN Wednesday, Republican National Committee communications director Sean Spicer said eliminating the potential conflicts of interest for Trump is “not as easy as waving a magic wand” when asked about the letter from Democratic lawmakers. He added that the assessment did not catch Trump off guard.
In an earlier call with reporters, Spicer said the matter would be addressed in a January press conference about what Trump was planning to do with his business empire — a press conference that was originally scheduled for Thursday but rescheduled by Trump earlier this week.
What Trump will do with his business empire upon becoming president next month has been a central focus of many during his transition. Trump said earlier this week that, during his presidency, his two adult sons and a few executives will manage the company and make “no new deals,” but ethics experts have said that step is not far enough.