While Donald Trump is busily pretending like his global and staggeringly varied conflicts of interest are no big deal, reality keeps rudely intervening. Today, the role of reality is played by the General Services Administration, a federal agency that keeps sending letters to Trump’s team about the need for him to give up his ownership stake in a D.C. hotel. Neither Trump nor anybody who works for him has responded to those letters. You’re shocked.
Trump’s latest attempts to pretend like his conflicts of interest are no big deal came late Sunday night, when he tweet-promised that there would be “no new deals” in his businesses during his presidency. It’s still unclear what that means (nothing), but in the meantime, Buzzfeed News reports that the GSA is sternly warning Trump to give up his ownership stake in the Trump International Hotel located in the Old Post Office.
The Old Post Office building is an architectural landmark leased by the Trump Organization from the federal government. In a letter written to the GSA’s top administrator by four Democratic congressmen, they say that the agency told them Trump can’t maintain his stake in the hotel or he’ll be in breach of his lease agreement with the feds:
If Trump refused to give up the lease, he’d be brought before the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, which would certainly be another fun and historically unprecedented development. And it’s entirely possible that we’ll get to see it unfold, since Buzzfeed reports that neither Trump nor his team has responded to the GSA’s letters.
Trump has also claimed he’ll avoid conflicts of interest by putting his large adult sons Eric and Don Jr. in charge of the Trump businesses. But Politico reports today that Don Jr. was involved in the search for a Secretary of the Interior, because of his deep interest in going outside and killing things while there. Per Politico’s sources, Don Jr. “sat in on interviews and made calls to candidates.” Expect Trump’s team to roundly ignore phone calls about that one too.
Update, 2:30 p.m.:
In an odd twist, the GSA told the Daily Beast that the version of events laid out in the Democrats’ letter to them is not accurate:
“GSA does not have a position that the lease provision requires the President-elect to divest of his financial interests,” a spokesperson for the agency wrote in an email. “We can make no definitive statement at this time about what would constitute a breach of the agreement, and to do so now would be premature. In fact, no determination regarding the Old Post Office can be completed until the full circumstances surrounding the President-elect’s business arrangements have been finalized and he has assumed office. GSA is committed to responsibly administering all of the leases to which it is a party.”
It’s unclear, then, who the deputy commissioner identified in the Democrats’ letter is, or why the official statement from the GSA is so very different.