Old Post Office: Trump Hotel Oversight

Background:

The Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management conducts, in addition to other things, oversight over public buildings, and the Public Buildings Service of the General Services Administration (GSA). This includes jurisdiction over the lease of the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C., which as of August 5, 2013, is leased to the Trump Old Post Office, LLC. President Trump is the sole beneficiary of a trust with a controlling interest in Trump Old Post Office, LLC.

  • November 2016: DeFazio and Subcommittee Ranking Member Andre Carson join Oversight & Government Reform Ranking Members Cummings and Connolly in sending a letter to then-Administrator Roth requesting information about how the GSA plans to address the imminent breach-of-lease and conflict of interest issues created by President-elect Donald Trump’s lease with the U.S. Government for the Trump International Hotel building
  • January 23, 2017: DeFazio joins House Oversight & Government Reform Ranking Member Cummings in sending a letter to GSA Acting Administrator Timothy Horne requesting that GSA re-evaluate the Old Post Office lease agreement, an explanation of the steps GSA had taken or planned to take in response to the alleged breach of contract, and copies of
    • notices sent to Trump Old Post Office, LLC concerning the breach of lease or notices sent in response to the public reports of construction liens filed against the Old Post Office building
    • unredacted monthly reports of both the revenues and expenses for the Trump International Hotel
    • any correspondence that GSA had with Trump Old Post Office, LLC or the Trump transition team regarding the Trump International Hotel
    • February 9, 2017: Response letter from GSA declined to provide any substantive information requested
    • March 2017: In-person staff briefing on the lease following GSA contract officer’s decision that the lease was in compliance
    • March 7, 2017: DeFazio and Subcommittee Ranking Member Hank Johnson send letter to GSA IG requesting an investigation into the management and administration of the Old Post Office lease agreement with the Trump Organization
    • April 6, 2017: DeFazio and Johnson join Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Ranking Member Carper and Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Cardin demanding an explanation of why information requested by Ranking Members had not been provided by GSA. The letter requested an explanation for this partisan change in policy, which officials provided this guidance, and whether the White House or any other federal agency provided instruction on this matter
    • June 12, 2017: DeFazio and Hank Johnson send letter to GSA Acting Administrator Timothy Horne requesting response to previous letters
    • July 2017:
      • As of July 2017: Democrats on T&I had sent five letters to GSA requesting documents related to the Old Post Office lease; GSA failed to provide most of the information requested
      • July 12, 2017: Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management hearing: Ranking Member DeFazio repeatedly asks Acting GSA Administrator Timothy Horne to answer questions about the administration and management of the Old Post Office lease agreement. Horne was not able to answer DeFazio’s questions and some of Horne's responses directly countered testimony from other GSA officials testifying before the Senate on the same day. Video of that exchange can be found here.
      • July 12, 2017: Ranking Member DeFazio and Subcommittee Ranking Member Hank Johnson release Democratic staff report titled “Breach of a Lease: The Tale of the Old Post Office in the Swamp” detailing GSA’s complete failure to administer the OPO lease agreement in accordance with the terms of the lease
      • Ranking Members DeFazio and Johnson introduce a Resolution of Inquiry to force GSA to produce:
        • All guidance or direction to the Acting Administrator or other GSA staff regarding responses to requests for information from Members of Congress and Ranking Members of Committees;
        • All documents associated with the OPO lease agreement between the Government and the Trump Organization, including annual statements, budgets, mortgage agreements, and claims; and
        • All legal memoranda or opinions regarding the OPO lease agreement
  • Due to Republican opposition to doing oversight on the lease, DeFazio lost the vote on the "Resolution of Inquiry" and the resolution was reported unfavorably to the floor with no subsequent action
  • January 16, 2019: GSA IG releases report finding that GSA did not consider the emoluments clause in advance of a GSA contracting officer certifying the new organizational structure put in place by President Trump
  • January 22, 2019: Chairman DeFazio and Chair Titus send a letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy requesting records and answers to questions from previous letters
  • February 12, 2019: GSA responds to DeFazio/Titus Jan. 22 request with responsive documents and begins rolling productions to the Committee; to date the Committee has received thousands of pages of documents from GSA but there are still outstanding categories of documents that GSA has withheld
  • July 12, 2019: GSA outlines its refusal to provide T&I with certain records. GSA refuses to provide the committee with legal memos or opinions related to the Old Post Office lease claiming they are “predecisional, deliberative documents containing attorney-client communications” and says they “are not being provided.” GSA also relies on an argument made by the counsel for the Trump Old Post Office LLC to suggest that the T&I committee “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” in seeking financial records related to the lease of the Old Post Office, a federally owned building.
  • September 10, 2019: T&I Chair DeFazio and Subcommittee Chair Titus send letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy refuting Trump Old Post Office LLC’s suggestion that the Committee does not have legislative jurisdiction over or proper oversight authority to investigate the Old Post Office lease to the Trump International Hotel and reiterating their request for records GSA has refused to provide to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
  • September 25, 2019: T&I Chair DeFazio and Subcommittee Chair Titus hold a hearing titled “Landlord & Tenant: Trump Administration Oversight of the Trump International Hotel.” Witnesses at the hearing included
    • Daniel Mathews, GSA Public Buildings Commissioner
    • Carol F. Ochoa, GSA Inspector General
    • Michael Foster, Legislative Attorney in the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service
    • Hans A. von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow, Heritage Foundation (Minority Witness)
    • Elizabeth Hempowicz, Director of Public Policy for the Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
    • Walter Shaub, Senior Advisor for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and former Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE)
  • Issues explored at the hearing included: the status of GSA document productions to T&I, the GSA IG’s open recommendation to GSA, whether GSA is receiving appropriate rents from the Trump International Hotel, the President’s dual role as tenant and lessor, and emoluments issues stemming from hotel income.

    • October 1, 2019: T&I Chair DeFazio and Subcommittee Chair Titus send letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy reiterating the committee’s request for financial records and legal memos related to the Old Post Office lease and requesting that GSA perform an audit of Trump Old Post Office LLC and examine the records of the Trump Old Post Office Hotel to determine which hotel transactions may constitute emoluments violations.

Press Releases

Letters

Reports, Statements, Memos

Hearings

Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Hearing: “Landlord and Tenant: The Trump Administration's Oversight of the Trump International Hotel Lease”

Ranking Member DeFazio's statement on ensuring the Old Post Office Building lease terms are being enforced

Ranking Member DeFazio presses GSA on ensuring the Old Post Office Building lease terms are being met