(WASHINGTON) — The government agency leasing the Trump Hotel to the company once run by Donald Trump has not adequately explained how the arrangement is in compliance with the lease, which explicitly prohibits elected U.S. officials from benefiting from it, a Democratic senator said Friday.
Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, said he received a briefing from the General Services Agency, which owns the building and provided the lease, but suggested the meeting raised more questions than it answered.
“Today, GSA provided a bipartisan staff briefing to my staff and staff of the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee in an effort to address these concerns. They failed,” Carper said in a written statement.
Staff for the EPW chairman, Sen. John Barrasso, did not respond to ABC’s request for comment.
Carper was concerned that upon Trump’s inauguration, he would be in violation of the section of the GSA lease which read, “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.”
In response to inquiries from Carper and assertions from other critics that Trump violated the lease upon his inauguration, the GSA released a letter last week asserting that the Trump Old Post Office, LLC, as the “tenant” is officially known, is in “full compliance” with that section of the lease.
According to the letter which also included a timeline of the arrangement, the GSA announced the Trump Organization as the “preferred selected developer” on Feb. 7, 2012, more than three years before the businessman announced his presidential run. The lease was executed on Aug. 5, 2013.
The document said that the reorganization of the hotel’s management and the creation of a revocable trust to deal with the president’s finances satisfied the terms of the lease.
The General Services Agency manages government buildings and leases and manages commercial real estate owned by the federal government.
During Friday’s briefing, Carper said the GSA could not define the word “benefit,” which he said calls into question how the agency could determine that Trump was deriving “no benefit” from the lease.
“Based on the agency’s apparent lack of expertise or thoughtfulness on this issue, I am extremely concerned about its ability to manage the lease,” he said.
He also said he was “disturbed” by the officials’ assertions, during the briefing, that the Trump administration has changed longstanding GSA practice to provide documents to both the majority and minority committee staff, and that now the GSA only has to provide documents to the committee chairman.
“The Trump Administration’s refusal to provide transparent and complete responses to elected officials in both parties who are equally responsible for oversight of the executive branch raises questions about just what GSA is trying to hide,” he said.
The GSA did not respond to a request for comment.
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