While the Trump administration is in the midst of a last-ditch effort to effect change on the country's healthcare landscape, the POTUS can finally rest easy that the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., isn't in violation of its lease.
Kevin M. Terry, a contracting officer at the General Services Administration, released a 166-page ruling finding that Trump's newest hotel is "in full compliance" of the terms of its lease. The decision puts to rest a several-months-long push from government contractors, ethics groups and Democratic members of Congress who questioned language in the 2013 lease, which stipulated that elected federal officials were prohibited from taking part in the deal. The language specifically referred to is as such:
“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."
The Trump International Hotel resides in what was formerly Old Post Office building. The property became embroiled in an ever-expanding legal kerfuffle in November after Trump was elected and ethics watchdogs began pointing to the above language as an example of breach of contract.
Learn the art of sabering, a tradition dating to the age of Napoleon, with your purchase of a bottle of champagne at Benjamin Bar & Lounge pic.twitter.com/bN5rVAhzug— Trump Washington DC (@TrumpDC) March 23, 2017
Following the election, Trump resigned from executive positions at the Trump Organization and handed management of his companies to his two eldest sons. Hel also placed his assets in a trust controlled by his sons, and the Trump Organization announced this week that it would not distribute the proceeds of the Washington property to his trust, nor "any other entity in which President Trump has a direct, indirect or beneficial interest." This means President Trump will not benefit from the hotel's operation while in office.
While it sounds good on paper, it's still a far cry from the standard practice of presidents placing their business interests in a blind trust while occupying the Oval Office. It may be smart business, but the decision to keep the hotel within the family is expected to draw continued ire throughout Trump's presidency.
However, the decision to revive the Old Post Office, a building sitting in a state of disrepair, seems to have had a more positive impact from the perspective of the GSA. In an eight-page decision memo released in addition to the GSA's decision, Terry said the Old Post Office's "historic integrity has been restored, and the wasting asset is now being put to productive use."
At first blush the decision from the GSA is taking on a prophetic quality as Trump is a figure known for his propensity to call out his shots before taking them. In late January, Trump told the New York Times that the law was on his side, stating that he has "a no conflict situation because I'm President." Despite this, the decision is being criticized by a number of different sources, including ethics groups and a number of House Democrats who claim that, as president, he controls the GSA, and contend the agency held a different position prior to his election.
The cloud of controversy surrounding the Washington, D.C., property is unlikely to disperse any time soon. After Trump took office, the hotel began positioning itself as a destination for foreign government officials and their events, with critics arguing this practice is in violation of the constitution. For this, the President is being sued in federal court, though Trump stated intentions to donate any profits made at the hotel from foreign governments to the United States Treasury.
On top of that, Trump still can look forward to seeing two of his culinary defectors in court. He still has open lawsuits against celebrity chefs Geoffrey Zakarian and José Andrés for backing out of restaurant deals at the Trump International Hotel, and both cases remain ongoing.