President Trump hit immediately with ethics complaint
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President Trump hit immediately with ethics complaint


How the government could kick Trump out of his own hotel

An ethics watchdog welcomed President Donald Trump to Washington by lodging a formal complaint with the federal government.

Trump violated his lease for the Trump International Hotel in D.C. the second he was sworn in, according to the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The hotel is located in a renovated historic post office that Trump leases from the government — and the paperwork explicitly forbids any elected government official from holding the lease or benefiting from it.

“The lease bans elected officials from benefiting to avoid conflicts of interest with their duties,” CREW director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

Related: How Trump could violate his own hotel lease

The ethics group says it filed a complaint with the General Services Administration on Friday. The GSA inked a deal with Trump in 2013 to lease the space for 60 years, locking in a minimum base rent of $3 million annually.

Democratic lawmakers raised the lease as an issue before Trump’s inauguration. Members of the House Oversight Committee demanded to know what the GSA planned to do about the hotel. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland said the GSA promised it would make Trump give up the property, but the agency has deferred any official decision.

Related: Democrats say agency told them Trump must give up Washington hotel

The GSA did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Earlier this month, the agency said it was reviewing the situation in light of Trump’s plans to reorganize his business empire.

Trump has announced plans to transfer his business holdings to a trust run by his sons. But he still maintains an ownership stake in Trump properties.

“We will review this new organizational structure and determine its compliance with all the terms and conditions of the lease,” the GSA said in a statement on January 11.

The Trump White House, which was in the throes of the inauguration, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CREW separately claimed Trump is in violation of the Constitution because he continues to do business with foreign governments, who book his hotels and other properties. This concern was not part of the complaint filed Friday.

“He just swore on the Bible to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,’ but by continuing to accept payments from foreign governments, he has already failed,” Bookbinder said.

The Constitution’s Emoluments Clause bars the president from accepting gifts from foreign governments without Congressional permission.

The Trump team denies it’s a problem.

“Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present and it has nothing to do with an office. It’s not an emolument,” Sheri Dillon, the lawyer helping Trump manage conflict-of-interest concerns, said at a press conference earlier this month.

The Office of Government Ethics, which oversees conflict-of-interest issues in the executive branch, did not respond to a request for comment on the lease or claims Trump has violated the Emoluments Clause.

But last week, OGE Director Walter Shaub issued rare public criticism of Trump’s plan to deal with his businesses, calling the setup “wholly inadequate.”

CNNMoney (New York) First published January 20, 2017: 5:54 PM ET


January 21, 2017
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