New Trump hotel in D.C. under scrutiny

Posted December 15, 2016

The General Services Administration says President-elect Donald Trump must "fully divest" himself of any stake in the hotel bearing his name on Pennsylvania Ave., Northwest, before taking office January 20, according to Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee.

The lease says: "No member or delegate to Congress or elected official of the Government of the United States. shall be admitted to any share of part of this Lease".

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 December 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".

"The deputy commissioner made clear that Mr. Trump must divest himself not only of managerial control, but of all ownership interest, as well", the Democrats continued.

The hotel is among several other potential conflicts of interests that Trump could face, including his possible involvement in his many businesses while president.

In response to a letter from House Democrats, Michael Gelber, the deputy commissioner of the General Services Administration's Public Buildings Service, said that Trump will be in breach of his lease as soon as he is sworn in on January 20, 2017.

A legal dispute over a breach of the lease would probably go before the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, an administrative tribunal independent from the GSA.

If the letter is accurate and the GSA has told Donald Trump to completely offload the hotel and he does not, he would be in breach of the lease. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.; Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.; Gerry Connolly, D-Va.; and Andre Carson, D-Ind., wrote in the letter.

Trump was supposed to announce a plan Thursday for how, if at all, he will disentangle himself from his business, but canceled.

President Elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama meeting in the Oval Office for the first time November 10th, 2016.

The Democrats, part of the House Oversight Committee, had demanded to know what the GSA planned to do about the conflict of interest posed by the hotel, which Trump opened in a renovated historic post office.

"Ms. Trump is all of the following - the president-elect's daughter, a top presidential transition team official, a lessee under the contract the GSA oversees, and the primary contact for GSA on the lease".

The hotel has been a focus of criticism by government ethics experts. Trump and the GSA took more than a year to hammer out a 60-year lease for its use.

In a letter sent to the General Services Administration, the government agency that owns the hotel 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. In addition to any breach of the lease, they worry that foreign governments will try to curry favor with the president-elect by booking rooms for their officials and hosting events there. And the term's clear goal is to prevent conflicts of interest of that type.