Old Post Office: Trump Hotel Oversight

Background:

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

  • November 2016: Ranking Member Peter DeFazio and Subcommittee Ranking Member Andre Carson join Oversight & Government Reform Ranking Members Elijah Cummings and Gerald Connolly in sending a letter to then GSA Administrator Denise Turner 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: Ranking Member DeFazio joins House Oversight & Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah 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; and
    • 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: Ranking Member DeFazio and Subcommittee Ranking Member Hank Johnson send letter to GSA Inspector General (IG) requesting an investigation into the management and administration of the Old Post Office lease agreement with the Trump Organization.
  • April 6, 2017: Ranking Member DeFazio and Subcommittee Ranking Member Johnson join Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper and Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Ben Cardin demanding an explanation of why information requested by the 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: Ranking Member DeFazio and Subcommittee Ranking Member Hank Johnson send letter to GSA Acting Administrator 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: At a Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management hearing, Ranking Member DeFazio repeatedly asks Acting GSA Administrator 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 Old Post Office lease agreement in accordance with the terms of the lease.
  • July 12, 2017: Ranking Member DeFazio and Subcommittee Ranking Member Hank Johnson introduce a Resolution of Inquiry to force GSA to produce:
    • All guidance or direction to the GSA 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 Federal 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 failed to consider the Emoluments Clauses to the U.S. Constitution in advance of a GSA contracting officer certifying the new organizational structure put in place by President Trump.
  • January 22, 2019: Chairman DeFazio and Subcommittee Chair Dina 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 January 22, 2019, 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, primarily financial documents and legal memos related to the Old Post Office lease to the Trump International Hotel.
  • 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, Stefan Passantino, 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: 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.
  • October 17, 2019: T&I Chair DeFazio and Subcommittee Chair Titus send letter to GSA Administrator Murphy warning that the failure of GSA to provide to the Committee financial records and legal memos related to the Old Post Office lease would result in a congressional subpoena for these records.
  • October 24, 2019: T&I Chair DeFazio issues subpoena to GSA Administrator Murphy for all documents requested in the January 22, 2019 letter – including financial records and legal memos. This is the first T&I subpoena issued in almost a decade.
  • November 20, 2019: T&I considered and ordered reported H.R. 5047, the GSA Lease Transparency Act of 2019, which would require GSA to conduct audits of Federal properties that have been leased to private parties.
  • December 20, 2019: T&I Chair DeFazio and Subcommittee Chair Titus send letter to GSA Administrator Murphy issuing an ultimatum to either provide requested documents to the Committee or appear before the Committee to explain why GSA has refused to comply.
  • January 10, 2020: T&I Chair DeFazio and Subcommittee Chair issue invitation to GSA Administrator Murphy to testify before the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.
  • January 14, 2020: GSA Administrator Murphy agrees to testify at the January 28, 2020, hearing.
  • January 28, 2020: Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management holds Hearing On: “GSA Outleases and the Trump Old Post Office Hotel,” with GSA Administrator Murphy as the sole witness.

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