President-elect Trump may violate Old Post Office lease

On Jan. 20, 2017, Donald Trump will officially be president of the United States. His victory may come as vindication for a campaign that many doubted could pull in the needed votes, but holding our highest office may force him to vacate his newest property.

The Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., officially opened its doors in September after the U.S. General Services Administration leased the Old Post Office Pavilion to a consortium led by The Trump Organization. Trump spent roughly $200 million renovating the building to be used as a luxury hotel and opening it a month before the election. While Trump doesn’t officially own the building, only the lease branding it with his name, Steven Schooner, a law professor at the George Washington School of Law, said in studying the contract for the hotel he found a clause prohibiting elected officials from taking any part in the lease of the property.

Clause 37.19 of the contract states: “No member or delegate to Congress, or elected official of the Government of the United States or the Government of the District of Columbia, shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.” 

Because of this, Schooner recommended in a statement that the General Services Administration terminate the property’s lease before Trump officially becomes president. Schooner can give more than a few other reasons why the president should not be operating a hotel in our nation’s capitol, including the possibility of foreign leaders, diplomats or special-interest groups booking a room at the Old Post Office in order to earn favor with the commander in chief. 

Also, as president, Trump will act as both tenant and landlord for the building and will be tasked with appointing the administrator of the GSA, who would then manage Trump’s lease. While Trump has insisted he will keep his business dealings and the leadership of the U.S. separate once he is sworn in, his plan is instead to hand the reigns of Trump International to his children and conflicts could still arise.

For example, the current rent for the Old Post Office sits at $3 million per year, but this number is to be adjusted yearly during periods of financial disclosures.

“Some civil servant at GSA is going to sit down with the president of the United States' children to negotiate adjustments to a multimillion-dollar lease on an annual basis. That's incomprehensible," Schooner said in a statement.