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Watchdog: Agency ignored constitutional concerns before letting Trump keep lease to DC hotel

The Trump International Hotel in Washington.

RICKY CARIOTI/THE WASHINGTON POST

By JONATHAN O’CONNELL AND DAVID A. FAHRENTHOLD | The Washington Post | Published: January 16, 2019

WASHINGTON — The General Services Administration “ignored” concerns that President Donald Trump’s lease on a government-owned building — the one that houses his Trump International Hotel in Washington — might violate the Constitution when it allowed Trump to keep the lease after he took office, according to a new report from the agency’s inspector general.

Trump’s company won the lease several years before he became president. After Trump was elected, the agency had to decide if his company would be allowed to keep its lease.

At that time, the inspector general found, the agency should have determined whether the lease violates the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which bar presidents from taking payments from foreign governments or individual U.S. states. But it did not, according to the report issued Wednesday.

“We … found that [the agency] improperly ignored these Emoluments Clauses, even though the lease itself requires compliance with the laws of the United States, including the Constitution,” said the report.

Since that time, Trump’s company has hosted events from several foreign embassies, and hosted at least one state governor, former Maine governor Paul LePage, a Republican. Trump has been sued since by Democratic members of Congress and the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, who allege, in separate lawsuits, that these transactions put Trump in violation of the Constitution.

The report does not recommend that Trump’s lease be canceled. Instead, the inspector general recommends a new legal review of the deal.

In a response to the report, included with its release, the General Services Administration issued a letter saying that the investigation showed there had been no political pressure on the agency — from Trump or anyone else — to let the newly elected president keep his lease. The investigation, the agency said, “found no undue influence, pressure or unwarranted involvement of any kind by anyone.”

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