Politics

Trump's Conflicts of Interest Just Became a Legal Issue

December 14th 2016

By:
Almie Rose

President-elect Donald Trump has been faced with a slew of conflict-of-interest issues since the election — and his situation just got even more complicated.

Donald Trump

Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) was created to help United States government agencies preserve historical federal buildings and find offices for government agencies (among other things). In 2013, it chose Trump International to develop the "Old Post Office," a national landmark in Washington, D.C., into a luxury hotel.

 

A photo posted by L.E. Baker (@socialstatics) on

"When completed, this will be one of the finest hotels anywhere in the world," Trump proclaimed on the hotel's official website at the time. "The building itself, which is totally irreplaceable, is going to be brought back to far beyond its original grandeur."

But, now, that Trump is the president-elect, it's no longer that simple.

"Mr. Trump will be in breach of the lease agreement the moment he takes office..."

Four lawmakers/congressmen — Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and André Carson (D-Ind.) — wrote a letter to the GSA asking the administration to address "the imminent breach-of-lease and conflict-of-interest issues created by President-elect Donald Trump's lease with the U.S. Government for the Trump International Hotel building in Washington, D.C."

They went on to say in the letter:

"[...] 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, D.C. hotel. The Deputy Commissioner made clear that Mr. Trump must divest himself of not only managerial control, but of all ownership interest as well."

How is this a conflict-of-interest?

The GSA doesn't want any lawmaker or government official to profit from a taxpayer-owned building. As the lease states, as noted in the letter, "No member or delegate to Congress, or elected official of the Government of the United States... shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom."

In short, as Daniel Wagner of BuzzFeed News reports, the concern is that "[Trump] would be able to fire the head of the GSA, effectively making him both landlord and tenant — a classic conflict of interest."

Ivanka can't save Trump this time.

Ivanka Trump

The letter also makes it clear that Ivanka, Trump's eldest daughter who is already making people nervous with her own potential conflict-of-interest issues, cannot run the hotel on her father's behalf.

They went on to explain why Ivanka won't be able to help her father as she has in the past, like being labeled as a "blind trust" for his businesses:

"Ms. Trump is all of the following — the President-elect’s daughter, a top presidential transition team official, a lessee under the contract GSA oversees, and the primary contact for GSA on the lease. The conflicts of interest are obvious."

As of writing, Trump nor his team have responded to the lawmakers or addressed the issue.

[H/T BuzzFeed]