Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) is hoping to “pour sunshine” on whether or not President Donald Trump is breaking the law regarding the Old Post Office building and his stake in the Washington, D.C. luxury hotel that’s leasing the property from the General Services Administration.
Speaking to Federal News Radio on Feb. 8, the same day members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform requested unredacted documents related to the lease, Connolly said the goal of obtaining that information was preservation of integrity and following the law.
“For the sake of the presidency, for the sake of Trump — whether he knows it or not, or likes it or not — and for the sake of integrity of GSA and the federal government, let’s be clear and let’s fix this,” said Connolly, who sits on the committee. “We don’t want that lease and the management of that facility to be tainted, and every day that’s not clear, it’s a big risk of a violation of the lease, and I think a violation of the Emoluments Clause.”
Connolly said constitutional scholars have been critical about a potential violation of the clause because “you’re accepting benefits from foreign governments and foreign entities and you don’t get to do that as president; the constitution says so.”
Seven other House oversight Democrats added their names to the letter from Connolly and committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), requesting GSA give them reports on revenue and expenses submitted from Trump’s organization.
Lawmakers sent a letter in late January requesting the information, but a Feb. 6 response from acting GSA Associate Administrator Saul Japson said the unredacted documents would need to be requested by seven members of the committee.
Japson also said in his letter that GSA had met with members of Trump’s company “to further discuss the matter.”
“Once GSA has a full and complete understanding of the tenant’s structure, GSA will determine whether the tenant remains in compliance with the contract,” Japson said.
Connolly said he was frustrated with the back and forth.
“I don’t think they’ve been consistently clear in their communication with us,” he said. “In a private briefing before the inauguration they were clear as a bell that yes, [Trump] would be in violation of the lease agreement the day he’s sworn in and he becomes an elected official.”
After Trump joined the public domain, however, there was a little backtracking, Connolly said.
“I don’t think any purpose is served in doing that,” he said. “I understand why some people may get cold feet about being too prominent on it, because it may not be a welcome message, but we’re all about trying to make sure the president doesn’t put himself in legal jeopardy.”