New Trump hotel in D.C. under scrutiny

Posted at 2:57 PM, Dec 14, 2016

Donald Trump cut the ribbon on his new D.C. hotel just before his election, but now he might have to cut ties with it just before his inauguration.

The hotel is housed in the government-owned Old Post Office, and Trump's lease forbids any elected official from being a party to or holding a financial stake in the contract.

Today, four Congressional Democrats wrote a letter to the General Services Administration, which handles the lease, asking for more information after its deputy commissioner told them in a briefing last week that Trump would be in violation of his contract the moment he enters office.

"I care about the 60 year lease for President-elect Trump's new luxury hotel here in Washington, DC, that will be breached the moment he steps into the oval office unless he completely divests his ownership interests, according to the United States General Services Administration," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-MD, one of the letter's signatories, said at a Democratic forum at the Capitol on Wednesday about President-Elect Trump's potential conflicts of interest.

But in a statement, a GSA spokesperson called any such determination premature "until the full circumstances surrounding the President-elect’s business arrangements have been finalized and he has assumed office."

If the GSA does adopt its deputy commissioner's views, though, the agency could void the lease or bring legal action against the Trump Organization to force compliance. And compliance would mean Trump's complete divesting of himself, his name, and his companies from the Trump International Hotel, according to Professor Joshua Schwartz, co-director of George Washington University Law School's Government Procurement Law Program.

The Trump Transition team told reporters on Wednesday the President-Elect would address the issue in January when he holds the press conference - originally scheduled for this Thursday - on the future of his business interests.

As for now, Congressional Democrats, who lack the power as the minority to launch oversight investigations, are hoping their more informal pressure campaign encourages Trump to address his potential conflicts of interest, starting with the hotel.

"I am a man of faith so I always reserve the possibility of faith and grace, but absent faith and grace, there's the law, and I expect the President-elect to abide by the law," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-VA, who also signed the GSA letter.