The judgment of the federal government’s procurement arm is that Donald Trump will be in breach of the lease contract on his newest hotel in downtown Washington as soon as he takes office on Jan. 20, House Democrats said Wednesay.
Unless he divests all financial interests, including managerial control and ownership, upon taking office, Mr. Trump will violate the contract, House Democrats said a top official at the General Services Administration (GSA) told them.
In a letter to the GSA Wednesday obtained by CBS News, four Democrats, including Goverment Reform and Oversight ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland noted they had received a briefing on Dec. 8 from deputy GSA commissioner Michael Gelberg in which he “confirmed repeatedly” a “categorical ban on the President of the United States or any other elected official having any financial interest in this lease, or taking any financial benefit from it.”
In the letter to the GSA administrator, Democrats said Gelberg told them that the provision is included in many GSA leases to create a “level playing field” and protect the interests of the American people.
After the release of the letter, GSA released its own statement saying, “GSA does not have a position that the lease provision requires the President-elect to divest of his financial interests.” GSA said that no determination would be completed until Mr. Trump finalizes his business arrangements and he assumes the presidency. It will not send a letter warning Mr. Trump to “cure” the problem until and if a breach occurs, a Democratic aide clarified.
Questions surrounding Mr. Trump’s business and real-estate empires have intensified since he won the election. Critics cite the Trump International Hotel--formerly the Old Post Office Building--as one of several conflicts of interest.
Mr. Trump originally said he’d announce the details of his separation from his businesses during a Dec. 15th press conference, but this week he postponed the media event until January. He has, however, pledged that his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, who are expected to run his businesses, will refrain from making “new deals” during his presidency.
According to the letter, Gelber also told the Democratic lawmakers that if Mr. Trump didn’t fully divest himself of financial interests in the hotel lease agreement, he would contacted by GSA and be given 30 days to respond.
“If the breach is not resolve satisfactorily, GSA would then normally bring the matter before the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals,” the letter read.
Ivanka Trump was also mentioned in the letter. Pointing out that she is Mr. Trump’s daughter, a transition team official and a lessee under the hotel contract, Democrats said in the letter, “The conflicts of interest are obvious.” Gelber said that GSA had contacted the transition team “to convey concerns about how to handle the breach of the hotel lease.”
House Democrats concluded the letter with a request to obtain nearly half-a-dozen unredacted documents from the GSA with a deadline of Dec. 20, so that they can continue their investigation.
CBS News’ Catherine Reynolds and Steven Portnoy contributed to this story