Quigley Statement on IG Report Showing GSA’s Failure to Conduct Constitutional Analysis on Trump Hotel Lease
WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), Chairman-designate of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government (FSGG), released the following statement on the Inspector General report that the General Services Administration (GSA) ignored the Constitution and prior precedents by illegitimately allowing President Trump to continue to profit from his hotel located five blocks from the White House:
“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, the GSA ignored that responsibility, turning a blind eye as the President continues to personally profit from his hotel in violation of the lease agreement. The GSA’s disingenuous decision-making process and explicit disregard for the Constitution, as well as its own legal responsibilities, is beyond troubling for all Americans who care about government transparency. Any reasonable person would conclude that the Trump Hotel’s acceptance of payments from foreign governments raises the strong possibility of a clear conflict of interest, but the GSA refused to speak out and do its job. By acknowledging the Emoluments concerns and completely ignoring the need to conduct a constitutional analysis, agency leaders have thrown into question their ability to fulfill GSA’s mission and show they are working on behalf of the American public and not the Trump Organization. I intend to call the GSA Administrator before my subcommittee and demand an explanation for GSA’s irresponsible behavior.”
In 2017, Rep. Quigley questioned Acting Administrator for the General Services Administration (GSA), Timothy Horne, about the Trump International Hotel lease and possible conflicts of interest. Rep. Quigley specifically asked then Acting Administrator Tim Horne whether the benefits accrued by President Trump conformed to the Constitution. Acting Administrator Horne replied that he was there to “support the contracting officer”. It is now clear that in the Spring of 2017, the Contracting officer did not get the support promised and was provided with no legal analysis of the serious Constitutional issues at stake with the lease agreement.
The Inspector General report concludes that, following the 2016 election, it was necessary for GSA to consider whether President-elect Trump’s business interest in the Old Post Office (OPO) lease might cause a breach of the lease upon becoming President. The evaluation found that GSA, through its Office of General Counsel (OGC) and its Public Buildings Service, recognized that the President’s business interest in the lease raised issues under the Foreign Emoluments and Presidential Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution that might cause a breach, but inexplicably decided not to address those issues and advise the contracting officer on Emoluments even though as recently as 2013 GSA had advised an employee to be wary of potential Emoluments violations in their work outside of GSA. The report also found that the decision to exclude the Emoluments issues from GSA’s consideration of the lease was improper because GSA, like all government agencies, has an obligation to uphold and enforce the Constitution, and because the lease, itself, explicitly requires that consideration. In addition, GSA’s unwillingness to address the constitutional issues affected its analysis of Section 37.19 of the lease, a provision prohibiting elected officials from benefitting from the lease agreement. The IG found that a GSA attorney had specifically drafted this provision to minimize interference by public officials in administration of the lease agreement and included elected officials “period.” This analysis led to GSA’s conclusion that Tenant’s business structure satisfied the terms and conditions of the lease. As a result, GSA prematurely resolved this matter in favor of the President foreclosing an equitable resolution of these issues and the uncertainty over the lease remains unresolved.