House Democrats have threatened to subpoena the General Services Administration if the agency does not hand over records related to the approval of President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel by next Wednesday.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has repeatedly requested documents related to the GSA’s approval of the hotel, which occupies space in a federal building owned by the agency. The GSA has sent over some documents, but withheld others, including the legal memos and the hotel’s monthly profit reports and profit statements.
Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), chair of the subcommittee in charge of public buildings, requested those withheld documents be handed over by Oct. 23 in a letter sent to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy on Thursday. If the agency fails to produce those documents the committee will compel them by issuing a subpoena.
The committee’s pursuit of these documents is part of its investigation into the president’s conflicts of interest, his potential violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which bar him from receiving payments or benefits from governments beyond his salary, and whether GSA followed proper procedures in approving the lease for the hotel.
The Trump Organization was awarded a lease to build a luxury hotel inside the historic Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue in 2014. The Trump International Hotel opened in October 2016, just weeks before Trump would win the presidential election.
His victory posed a sudden problem for the new hotel. The lease contained a clause forbidding any “elected official of the Government of the United States” to “be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.” Additionally, the Constitution’s emoluments clauses forbid executive branch officers from receiving any payment or benefit from foreign governments and both federal and state governments aside from their salary.
GSA lawyers could have investigated this issue during the 2016 election, but they didn’t. Instead, they waited until after Trump won the election to begin considering the problems posed by his continued ownership of the lease, according to an inspector general report. GSA lawyers then decided they would completely ignore the Constitution’s emoluments clauses in their review of legal problems posed by the president owning a federal lease.
The hotel has since become a symbol of the Trump administration’s corruption. It has attracted lobbyists, foreign governments, corporate executives and Republican political campaigns to spend lavishly. And the president personally benefits from all payments to the hotel.
Read the letter to the GSA below:
This story has been updated with more background on the hotel.