The General Services Administration (GSA) has determined that the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office is in compliance with anti-corruption provisions within its lease.
Since President Donald Trump took office, ethicists have warned of numerous potential conflicts of interest within his business empire. One of these concerns was the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The Trump Organization won the bid to restore the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Ave and turn it into an upscale hotel. One anti-corruption provision in the lease, however, prohibits the hotel from being owned by an elected official or Federal government employee. It reads,
“No member or delegate to Congress, or elected official of the Government of the United States or the Government of the District of Columbia, shall be admitted to any share or part of this lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom;”
Ethicists pointed to this provision and questioned whether Donald Trump and the Trump Organization should be allowed to continue managing the hotel.
On March 23, 2017, the GSA published its determination
, finding the Trump International Hotel is now in full compliance with the lease provision. GSA officials were satisfied with the ownership and organizational changes that the President enacted between Election Day and the Inauguration.
President Trump formally handed over operational control of the Trump Organization to his eldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, before taking office. This complied with the first half of the anti-corruption provision.
However, even with Donald Trump’s sons in control of the operation, the President would still be benefitting from the project since he maintains majority ownership of the Trump Organization. To comply with the lease, the Trump International Hotel was separated and prohibited from making distributions to the Trump Organization for the duration of Donald Trump’s Presidency. The result is that all profits from the Trump International Hotel will be reinvested into the hotel.
The GSA’s findings may also put to bed allegations that the Pennsylvania Ave hotel bearing the President’s name could constitute a violation of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause.
The Emoluments Clause dictates that “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
Government Watchdogs have worried that a foreign dignitary paying for a room at the Trump International Hotel could be enough to constitute an “emolument” if the President personally profited from the reservation. The GSA’s determination, however, suggests that President Trump may have sufficiently distanced himself from the project and its profits.