While the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s presidency was questioned weeks before he took office, one particular challenge claimed that he violated the Constitution the moment he was inaugurated.
Specifically, it was the opening of the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. — which was featured in CNN’s “Conflict of Interest Watch” in January — that prompted claims that the president would breach the Constitution’s “emoluments clause” anytime he profited from the property.
On Thursday, the General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency investigating the matter, announced that the president was in “full compliance” with such regulations — a harsh blow to Democrats and other critics who had long said otherwise.Image Credit: Getty Images/Mandel Ngan
As ABC News notes, much of the concern centered on a specific agreement included in the hotel’s lease:
The 2013 lease for the Trump International Hotel expressly forbids any federal official from participating or benefiting from the project, a $200 million renovation of historic Old Post Office building a few blocks from the White House.
In this week’s letter to Trump sons Eric and Donald, Jr. — who the president handed his business over to prior to his inauguration — Kevin Terry of the GSA made it clear that the president is in “full compliance,” as he “will not receive any distributions from the trust that would have been generated from the hotel.”
Based on my review of the Lease, discussions with Tenant, and documents submitted by Tenant, I have determined that Tenant is in full compliance.
Accordingly, the Lease is valid and in full force and effect.
Though the agency’s announcement seems to have closed the door on this scandal, critics say the fight is far from over:
This is important. GSA's lease ruling yesterday was shocking and plainly wrong on law. The story of Trump Hotel is no where close to over. https://t.co/kTXOebe3Fl
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) March 24, 2017
According to Steven Schooner, a law professor at George Washington University, said the GSA’s decision was dangerous to the point that it has damaged its own credibility:
“It has never been easier for a foreign government, lobbyist or special-interest group to funnel money directly to the president of the United States and his family.”
It should be noted, that Schooner served in the Clinton administration and has contributed to Democrat campaigns, including former President Obama’s.
Two ranking Democrats, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), released a joint statement offering similar pushback, writing:
This new interpretation renders this lease provision completely meaningless — any elected official can now defy the restriction by following this blueprint.
This decision allows profits to be reinvested back into the hotel so Donald Trump can reap the financial benefits when he leaves the White House. This is exactly what the lease provision was supposed to prevent.
The two added that the GSA offered a “completely inadequate explanation for its decision,” arguing that the “GSA changed the position it held before President Trump took office.”