Four Democratic congressmen are calling for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to divest any stake he holds in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, before he takes office in January, citing a clause in the lease that forbids any elected official from profiting off the hotel.
In a letter sent to the General Services Administration, the government agency that owns the property and leases it to Trump, the four Democrats say Trump would violate the lease the minute he is sworn in on inauguration day, and asked how the agency plans to address the apparent upcoming contract breach.
The GSA denied the claims made by the Democrats in a statement released shortly after the letter was made public, saying it held no position on the matter.
"GSA does not have a position that the lease provision requires the president-elect to divest of his financial interests. We can make no definitive statement at this time about what would constitute a breach of the agreement, and to do so now would be premature,” the statement read.
“In fact, no determination regarding the Old Post Office can be completed until the full circumstances surrounding the president-elect’s business arrangements have been finalized and he has assumed office.”
The issue surrounds a clause in the contract that says “no member of Congress, or elected official of the Government of the United States ...shall be admitted to any share or part of this lease.”
The Democrats claim that clause prevents Trump from holding any stake in the hotel, even though he wasn’t an elected official when he signed the lease. Some government contracting experts, though, say the wording of the clause, particularly the use of the word “admitted”, would only keep Trump from acquiring a stake in the hotel after he is sworn in, but wouldn’t affect the interest he already owns.
According to the Democratic lawmakers, the GSA agrees with their assessment of Trump’s potential lease violation and says the agency has attempted to contact the Trump transition team, but received no response.
“When our staffs asked if GSA attempted to contact Mr. Trump or his associates about this issue, the Deputy Commissioner stated that GSA informed the Trump transition team about concerns raised by us and others about the imminent breach, but that GSA has heard nothing in response to date,” the letter said, citing a briefing provided to the congressmen by a GSA official.
The Trump Transition Team did not immediately respond to a VOA request for comment regarding the claims made by Reps. Elijah Cummings, Peter DeFazio, Gerald Connolly and Andre Carson.