Quigley Questions GSA Administrator About Trump Hotel Lease
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), who serves as Ranking Member of the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations Subcommittee and Co-Chair of the Congressional Transparency Caucus, released the following statement after asking Acting Administrator for the General Services Administration (GSA), Timothy Horne, about the Trump International Hotel lease and possible conflicts of interest. Rep. Quigley’s opening remarks from the hearing are also included below.
“The GSA is required to act in the best interest of the American people and is expected to hold the President accountable should he attempt to exploit his office for personal gain,” said Rep. Quigley. “Unfortunately, today’s hearing provided little clarity into how the GSA could have determined that President Trump is not in violation of the Trump Hotel lease, despite the fact that the President will personally profit from the hotel. The GSA’s decision is troubling, and I remain concerned with the lack of transparency in the GSA’s review of the lease terms, as well as their ability to objectivity enforce the lease.”
Rep. Quigley’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you Mr. Chairman, I would like to join you in welcoming Acting Administrator for the General Services Administration, Timothy O. Horne to the committee.
This year, the GSA budget includes significant new spending for construction and for repairs and alterations. I am pleased to see the proposal for much needed investment in maintenance and improvement projects in light of the massive backlog of projects currently waiting for action. I’m also interested in learning more about the additional funding requested for three new initiatives at GSA.
“In particular, what role the newly proposed technology modernization fund will play in replacing outdated legacy IT system and how the funds may be used to improve and enhance the Federal Real Property Profile. At the same time, I am disappointed – and honestly perplexed – as to why there are not additional construction funds requested for FY 2018 to move ahead with the acquisition of a new FBI headquarters in the D.C. metro area.
“As you know, the recently enacted FY 2017 omnibus appropriations bill provided a total of $500 million for this purpose and I know that there is widespread interest in providing the additional funds needed to see this project through.
“I also want to emphasize that this is in fact an oversight hearing. And that requires us to ensure that GSA and its employees are acting in the best interest of all hard working American taxpayers.
“Unfortunately, there is a troubling issue that cannot go ignored by this subcommittee. As you know, in 2013, President Trump signed a 60 year lease with the GSA to turn the Old Post Office Pavilion, located just blocks from the White House, into what is now the Trump International Hotel. Because the President overseas both you and the GSA, he effectively became both landlord and tenant when he was sworn into office. This of course is prohibited since the lease agreement clearly states that no elected official of the government of the United States shall be admitted to any share or part of this lease, or to any benefit that may arise there from.
“However, back in March, GSA determined that the Trump Organization was not in violation of its lease, expressing satisfaction with the President’s clearly insufficient plan to deal with his conflicts of interest.
“The President agreed to put his ownership stake in the hotel into a trust controlled by two of his sons, Eric and Don Jr., and the Trump Organization’s CFO—a far cry from a blind trust. Any reasonable person would conclude that this is a clear conflict of interest. Would we tolerate a judge deciding a case that involved his sons? Of course not, and this should be no different. And unlike a blind trust that would sell-off the President’s stake and invest the funds into other assets, his plan would direct his share of the profits from the hotel into the trust as soon as he leaves office.
“A breach-of-lease is more than just an issue of non-compliance. It represents the President’s disregard for ethics or transparency, and his belief that he plays by a different set of rules. By normalizing such behavior, we continue to erode the public’s already low trust in government.
“That’s why it’s so troubling to me that the GSA has condoned the President’s actions and I fear that this will set a disturbing precedent for other government officials to follow.
“I look forward to further discussing this very important issue with you today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”