Inspector general slams agency for ignoring potential conflicts in Trump Hotel lease

January 16, 2019

An internal government watchdog said Wednesday that a federal agency ignored guidelines of the Constitution’s emoluments clause when it approved a lease for the Trump Hotel in an old post office building near the White House.

The inspector general of the General Services Administration said the agency failed to consider “issues under the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause that might cause a breach of the lease” The long-awaited report said the agency “decided not to address those issues” of a potential conflict of interest.

The IG said the GSA “has an obligation to uphold and enforce the Constitution” and recommended that it go back and consider the lease again in light of the guidelines.

The report drew renewed condemnation from Democrats over the deal that the Trump Organization entered into before Mr. Trump was elected in 2016. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat, said the president “should not have any contracts with the federal government.”

“It is an obvious conflict of interest, and it is why the lease for the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., explicitly prohibits any federal government official from being a party,” Mr. Cummings said in a statement. “This devastating new report from the Inspector General is proof that President Trump should have divested his business interests rather than ignoring the advice of ethics experts.”

He said the Trump Hotel “is a glaring physical symbol of the Trump administration’s refusal to play by the same rules as everyone else.”

Critics argue that the Trump International Hotel in the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue, three blocks from the White House, is a conflict of interest for the president because foreign officials and others could try to curry favor with Mr. Trump by patronizing the luxury establishment.

The state of Maryland and the District of Columbia are suing in federal court, alleging that Mr. Trump is profiting off his elected office by operating the hotel through the Trump Organization, which is now controlled by sons Donald Jr. and Eric.