Democrats claim president-elect Donald Trump must give up ownership of a luxury hotel in Washington, D.C., before he assumes office on Jan. 20. Lawmakers argue that the real estate tycoon would breach a federal contract if he still owns the hotel on Inauguration Day.
What’s more, Democrats say he shouldn’t even be managing the building at that moment. Lawmakers sent a letter to the General Services Administration’s chief with their arguments this Tuesday. The GSA leased the property to the billionaire.
The Controversial Lease
The Trump International Hotel in Washington city sparked controversy because it uses a federally-owned building, the Old Post Office. So, Trump leased the property from the government.
However, under the contract, elected officials shouldn’t be leasing the building. If Trump declines to give up the lease next month, the agency could theoretically sue him. The suit will happen in a special tribunal that solves cases with federal agencies.
Trump’s transition team has yet to reply to a request for comment.
The four Democrats who drafted the letter added more fuel to the concerns that the billionaire business ties may be at odds with his presidential duties. The said hotel, which is situated very close to the White House, has been already used by foreign officials after the election.
Critics say these visitors came to the country to influence the U.S. government. Critics are also concerned that the businessman could fire the agency’s head to solve the problem, which would land him in a conflict of interest.
Trump could indeed appoint somebody else to run the agency in a bid to dismiss the current interpretation of the lease. The GSA, though, replied to this scenario with a statement saying its officials are independent and base the interpretation of the rules governing contracts on the country’s laws, not on political influence.
Democrats Urge Trump to Get Rid of the Hotel
The rules are clear: the GSA’s lease bars elected officials from sharing or parting the lease. Additionally, these officials should not benefit from the lease in any way. Rep. Elijah Cummings who signed the letter had reportedly told Trump to get rid of the hotel in the past.
A spokesperson for the agency confirmed that president-elect must make up his mind about the hotel fast. Under the contract, he cannot manage or own it if he runs the country as president. The agency said the real estate billionaire would breach the contract on Jan 20.
The agency, on the other hand, dismissed some rumors in the media. According to some news outlets, the contract used language that targeted only people that were elected officials when they agreed to the lease.
The letter says that Trump would have one month to give up the hotel before the agency takes the case to the US Civilian Board of Contract Appeals. The GSA hasn’t confirmed this detail. According to BuzzFeed, the agency had planned to talk the issue over with Trump in private. The letter says the agency reached the billionaire’s team but staffers so far failed to respond.
In addition, Democrats said they won’t like it either if Trump instructs his children to run the estate. As the daughter of the next U.S. president, Ivanka would place her father in an ‘obvious’ conflict of interest, the letter reads.
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