Senators appeal to GSA watchdog on Trump hotel lease

Two Senate Democrats turned to the General Services Administration's inspector general, asking the office to review President Trump's lease of the Old Post Office building in Washington.

Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Citing inaction by the General Services Administration, two top Senate Democrats asked the agency's inspector general to investigate President Donald Trump's lease of the Old Post Office building for possible re-negotiation.

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member  Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Ranking Member Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) asked Inspector General Carol Ochoa to review GSA's management of the lease with the Trump Organization to operate a luxury hotel in the iconic Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C.

The lease has become a focal point for Democrats looking into Trump's potential conflicts of interest.

On the House side, Oversight and Government Reform Ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has been peppering the GSA with letters since before the inauguration asking about potential conflicts for the president in his continued ownership of the hotel.

The letter from McCaskill and Carper seeks a new front for oversight of the lease deal.

The two contend President Trump is now both landlord and tenant of the Old Post Office Building, creating "significant complications" in managing the building under a program meant "to maximize asset income and provide value to the Federal Buildings Fund and taxpayers."

They said career GSA officials should take over management of the lease and renegotiate it with the president and his children, who are also part of the agreement. Those career officials, McCaskill and Carper said, have to walk the line of making sure the lease remains fair to the tenant, but also protects taxpayer interests.

The letter was critical of the GSA's inert handling of the lease after the election.

"Despite the warning signs from Members of Congress and ethics watchdogs, GSA chose not to take any action to address or enforce this provision of the lease or the other steps to mitigate the difficulties the lease creates for GSA and other government officials who oversee management of the agreement," they wrote.

GSA said in December statement that it "does not have a position that the lease provision requires the President-elect to divest of his financial interests."