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Congressman Peter DeFazio

Representing the 4th District of OREGON

Chair DeFazio to GSA Administrator: Either Comply with the Subpoena for Trump Hotel Documents, or Explain Your Refusal at Public Hearing

Dec 23, 2019
Press Release
DeFazio: “It gives us no comfort that under your direction GSA is resisting not just the legitimate efforts of the U.S. Congress but also the oversight efforts of your own internal Inspector General”

Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) issued an ultimatum to the Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA): either provide requested documents so the Committee can conduct its Constitutionally-mandated oversight duties, or appear before the Committee to explain at a public hearing why GSA refuses to comply.

As Chair DeFazio has stated repeatedly, the American people have a right to know whether President Trump, who is serving as both landlord and tenant of the Old Post Office Building, is violating the Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. As Chair of the Committee, DeFazio issued a subpoena for financial records and legal memos relating to the Old Post Office Building lease to the Trump International Hotel on October 24, 2019. Under the advice of the Office of General Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Committee attempted to reach a reasonable accommodation with GSA to receive the documents, but GSA has continued to stonewall access to the majority of relevant documents.

In their letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, Chair DeFazio wrote: “Through these actions, your agency has engaged in a pattern of obstruction and obstinance that is unacceptable and damaging to GSA’s ability to manage taxpayer funds in a transparent manner. We strongly encourage you to comply with this subpoena and stop placing President Trump above the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States. If not, we look forward to directly asking you about your refusal to comply with this subpoena at a hearing early next year so that you can explain to us and the American public why you have placed the President of the United States above the law.”

A comprehensive timeline of the Committee’s investigation into this lease can be found here.

A full copy of the letter can be found below.

 

December 23, 2019

Ms. Emily W. Murphy
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)
1800 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20405

Dear Administrator Murphy:

As you are well aware, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (“Committee”) issued a subpoena to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) on October 24, 2019, seeking records that GSA had failed to provide to the Committee in response to a January 22, 2019, records request letter, specifically regarding financial records and legal memos relating to the Old Post Office (OPO) Building lease to the Trump International Hotel. Despite our best efforts to work with GSA to consider reasonable accommodations in this process, GSA has failed to comply with this subpoena.

It gives us no comfort that under your direction GSA is resisting not just the legitimate oversight efforts of the U.S. Congress but also the oversight efforts of your own internal Inspector General (IG). Our government is built upon checks and balances, and as Members of Congress we have an obligation to perform critical oversight of the Executive Branch. Your steadfast refusal to comply with these efforts is not just disconcerting but an affront to the democratic institutions that the United States has been founded upon.

The GSA IG’s most recent Semiannual Report to Congress[1] highlighted your agency’s refusal to implement the IG’s recommendations in its January 2019 report on the OPO Building lease[2], including the revision of language in GSA leases to avoid future ambiguity and to clearly articulate that Federally elected officials are barred from participating in leases of Federal buildings in order to comply with the Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Rather than implementing the IG’s recommendations, however, your agency has stuck with its decision that, according to the IG, “improperly ignored the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses.” As highlighted in your recent response to the Committee’s Questions for the Record (QFRs), GSA has decided only to include language in outleases barring conflicts with Members of Congress and has intentionally ignored the conflicts-of-interest posed by the President of the United States.

Given the clear concerns raised by GSA’s improper handling of the OPO Building lease by the IG and others, the relevance of our Committee’s request for financial records and legal memos related to the lease cannot be overstated. We wrote to you on September 10, 2019, detailing the Committee’s request for these records and the Committee’s legitimate oversight authority to obtain these documents. As that letter noted, “Under Rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has legislative and oversight jurisdiction over “[p]urchase of sites and construction of post offices, custom-houses, Federal courthouses, and Government buildings within the District of Columbia” and “[p]ublic buildings and occupied or improved grounds of the United States generally.”[3] The OPO is a Federally-owned building located in the District of Columbia redeveloped pursuant to the Old Post Office Building Redevelopment Act of 2008.[4]

Since we originally wrote to you in January 2019, GSA has made no efforts at accommodations regarding our request for legal memos related to the leasing of the OPO Building to the Trump International Hotel. Furthermore, your General Counsel has refused to accept reasonable accommodations on the part of the Committee relating to access to the financial records that would have permitted our staff to review these records “in camera” and would have provided GSA with ample notice if we decided that the public release of this information or references to it was necessary to fulfill the Committee’s obligation to conduct appropriate oversight of GSA and was in the public’s interest.

Through these actions, your agency  has engaged in a pattern of obstruction and obstinance that is unacceptable and damaging to GSA’s ability to manage taxpayer funds in a transparent manner. We strongly encourage you to comply with this subpoena and stop placing President Trump above the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States. If not, we look forward to directly asking you about your refusal to comply with this subpoena at a hearing early next year so that you can explain to us and the American public why you have chosen to abrogate your legal responsibility.

 

Sincerely,

 

PETER A. DeFAZIO                                     DINA TITUS

Chair                                                                Chair

                                                                        Subcommittee on Economic Development,

                                                                        Public Buildings, and

                                                                        Emergency Management

 

cc:        The Honorable Sam Graves, Ranking Member

            Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure

 

            The Honorable Mark Meadows, Ranking Member

            Subcommittee on Economic Development,

            Public Buildings, and Emergency Management

 

[1] “Semiannual Report to the Congress,” Office of Inspector General (OIG), U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), April 1, 2019-September 30, 2019, accessed here: https://www.gsaig.gov/sites/default/files/semiannual-reports/GSA-OIG-SAR-11-2019%20508.pdf.

[2] “Evaluation of GSA’s Management and Administration of the Old Post Office Building Lease,” JE19-002 (Redacted), Office of Inspector General (OIG), U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), January 16, 2019, accessed here: https://www.gsaig.gov/content/evaluation-gsas-management-and-administration-old-post-office-building-lease

[3] Rules of the House of Representatives, 116th Cong. Rule X(1)(r) (2019), accessed here: https://rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/116-1/116-House-Rules-Clerk.pdf.

[4] Old Post Office Building Redevelopment Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-359, 122 Stat. 4005 (2008).