Friday, January 20, 2017

At Trump Hotel in Washington, Champagne Toasts in an Ethical ‘Minefield’

NY Times   With sirens blaring, a fleet of limousines and security personnel raced down Pennsylvania Avenue twice in less than the last 24 hours to deliver Donald J. Trump to inauguration events.

But he was not heading to the White House. He was going to Trump International Hotel.

It was a telling destination for those visits Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. Perhaps more than any other location in Mr. Trump’s far-flung real estate empire, this 263-room hotel epitomizes the convergence of Donald Trump the global businessman and Donald Trump the president-elect.

Conflicts that for months have been theoretical are now about to become real — most immediately a possible challenge by the federal government. It owns the building that houses Mr. Trump’s hotel and has granted him a 60-year lease. From the moment he is sworn in as president at noon Friday, Mr. Trump may be in violation of that lease, given a provision that appears to prohibit federal elected officials from renting the Old Post Office building, the Pennsylvania Avenue landmark that houses the hotel, from the government.

Guests at the hotel include foreign diplomats and politicians who could be looking to curry favor with Mr. Trump — but even the act of paying their bills as they check out after the inauguration may open Mr. Trump to a challenge that he has violated the United States Constitution, which prohibits federal government officials from taking payments or gifts from foreign governments.[...]

“That building is symbolic of the minefield that President-elect Trump has decided to walk through,” said Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, who is the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is charged with investigating any potential wrongdoing by government officials. “We are going now from the hypothetical to reality — and I myself am not sure where it is going to lead.”

Sean Spicer, Mr. Trump’s press secretary, defended Mr. Trump’s continued close ties to the hotel. “That he’s going to his own hotel? I mean, I think that’s pretty smart,” Mr. Spicer said. “I think the idea that he’s going to his own hotel shouldn’t be a shocker. It’s a beautiful place. It’s a place that he’s very proud of.”[...]

The Post Office project is valued at roughly $200 million, much of it financed by Deutsche Bank, a favorite lender of the Trump Organization. The bank agreed to lend up to $170 million. The deal requires a Trump company to pay the government $3 million a year in rent from the hotel’s opening date. [...]

The lease between the General Services Administration and the Trump company includes a clause — “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” — that federal contract experts say makes clear that Mr. Trump will be in violation of the deal as soon as he is sworn in.

“The basic integrity and credibility of the president of the United States of the federal procurement and contracting regime is at risk,” said Steven L. Schooner, a professor specializing in government procurement law at George Washington University. “We are about to have a legitimate scandal on our hands.”

Representative Cummings, the Maryland Democrat, said he expected the G.S.A. to declare the Trump Organization in breach of the contract. Renee Kelly, a spokeswoman for the agency, would not confirm that it intends to take such a move, saying only in a written statement that the “G.S.A. won’t have an update until Friday after the inauguration.”

That a company Mr. Trump controls is a prominent tenant of the federal government is just the beginning of it.

His administration will assume oversight of Wall Street regulation, which includes policing Deutsche Bank’s activities.[...]

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have said he would donate any profit derived from foreign government hotel guests to the United States Treasury. But Mr. Trump’s critics say that would not eliminate the risk he would be violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which some legal experts say prohibits federal employees from taking gifts or payments from foreign governments.

Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of University of California, Irvine, School of Law, said, “There is no doubt he will be benefiting financially from foreign government officials who are patronizing the Trump Hotel in Washington and other facilities around the world.” [...]


  1. Ooh. Ooh! Scandal brewing.



  2. you think it is all a joke? Laws and ethical considerations only apply to Democrats or at least only in the name is Clinton?

  3. I congratulate this website for being one of the few Torah oriented websites to warn of the danger to all Americans posed by the new President. To those who condone Trump I pose a reminder: There are only two people whom Trump as never belittled as weak, payhetic, over-rated, a has been, etc. etc. These two people are 1)Putin 2) Trump

  4. I approach this kind of thing as a longtime observer and participant in the law and politics of Washington. And I can tell you that things like this are a big yawn.

    Example: Just about everyone involved in the funding of UNWRA, from Capitol Hill from staffers to Congressmen, knows that part of the money is used to explicitly teach children to kill. But they keep the funding flowing; and if you point out that the U.S. is thus funding terrorism, they don't disagree.

    I have lots more examples.

    So, I say a Republican controlled Congress is not going to touch this stuff. Mr. Trump is too powerful and popular. He singlehandedly swept many Republicans into office and swept many Democrats out.

    I knocked myself out many times trying to get policy to change. And I found, as a mentor taught me, that nothing is more unconvincing than reason. That's an exaggeration, but it has much truth in it.

    A politician will use truth as the icing on his policy statement, if the truth agrees with his policy. Otherwise, he'll jettison truth.

    So, if others want to knock themselves out, be my guest. I'm trying to enlighten the readers of this blog to the fruitlessness of thinking that prettily crafted position papers carry much weight. They don't carry much weight: they can be blown off with a blank look from the people who hold the real power.

    The Supreme Court won't touch this issue. Congress won't touch it. It's too mushy. Mr. Trump's got top lawyers. And top lawyers can drag things out for years.

    So, the issue is not a joke. Or perhaps, it's a bad joke. Or the joke is on those who think they'll get anywhere harping on it. I learned by trying. Maybe others will succeed with it where I failed.


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