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Inspector General Report Implies Trump Violated Constitution with Hotel Lease

January 25, 2019 by Tom Ramstack
The Trump International Hotel under construction on March 6, 2016 in Washington, D.C. The lawsuit claiming he President Donald Trump is improperly profiting from the hotel still stands. (Ron Sachs/CNP/Sipa USA/TNS)

The U.S. General Services Administration demonstrated “serious shortcomings” in reviewing conflicts of interest in the lease on Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, a report this week says.

The report by the General Services Administration’s (GSA) inspector general is likely to become important evidence in a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Maryland.

The Trump Organization obtained a 60-year lease on the historic Old Post Office Pavilion in 2013. They then converted it to a luxury hotel often frequented by foreign dignitaries and other associates of President Donald Trump’s businesses.

A lawsuit filed by the D.C. and Maryland attorneys general accuses Trump of violating the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids high-level government officials from profiting through their association with foreign governments.

The lawsuit also says Trump International Hotel unfairly takes business away from other local hotels and restaurants while benefiting the president. The case is pending in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The GSA inspector general’s report echoes some of the complaints in the lawsuit.

“GSA had an obligation to uphold and enforce the Constitution,” the report says. “However, GSA opted not to seek any guidance from OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) and did not address the constitutional issues related to the management of the lease.”

The lease said no elected federal official could run the hotel or profit from it.

After Trump won the presidency, the GSA issued a 166-page decision that said the president was in “full compliance” with the lease.

However, the inspector general’s report this week reached a different conclusion, saying the GSA ignored “issues under the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause that might cause a breach of the lease.”

In addition, The New York Times reported this week that the Trump campaign spent $1.5 million for its staff members to stay at the hotel before the election.

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