Constitutional Law

GSA lawyers punted on constitutional issue raised by Trump hotel lease, IG report says

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The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C./W. Scott McGill (

Lawyers with the U.S. General Services Administration were aware of constitutional concerns raised by the ongoing lease of a government building for a Trump hotel, but they decided to “punt,” according to a report by the GSA inspector general.

The agency lawyers “improperly ignored [the] emoluments clauses, even though the lease itself requires compliance with the laws of the United States, including the Constitution,” the report said. The Washington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, NPR and the Wall Street Journal have stories.

The government building leased to the Trump Organization is on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. It houses the Trump International Hotel.

Three lawsuits have been filed contending that President Donald Trump is violating the emoluments clauses by accepting payments from foreign governments or states. One suit has been dismissed. Another filed by Maryland and Washington, D.C., focuses on the Washington, D.C., hotel. A third filed by more than 200 members of Congress targets broader business holdings.

The foreign emoluments clause states that, absent congressional consent, no one holding any office of profit or trust shall “accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.”

The domestic emoluments clause, also known as the presidential compensation clause, says the president shall receive compensation for his services, “which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

The Trump Organization has said it calculates profits from foreign governments and donates the money to the U.S. Treasury.

The GSA response to the report said there was no finding of political pressure or undue influence applied to the agency in the matter.

Since the election, the Trump International Hotel received about $270,000 in payments linked to Saudi Arabia as part of a lobbying campaign against terrorism legislation, the Wall Street Journal reported in June 2017. The payments were for catering, lodging and parking.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that T-Mobile booked rooms for nine executives at the hotel a day after the company announced a merger needing Trump administration approval.

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