DeFazio Presses GSA as Part of Ongoing Investigation into Trump's DC Hotel Lease
Washington, DC- After months of refusing to provide the committee with specific records related to President Trump’s lease at the federally-owned Old Post Office, today Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Dina Titus (D-NV) pressed U.S. General Services Administrator (GSA) Emily Murphy to comply with their records requests, pointing out that the Trump Old Post Office, LLC’s suggestion that the committee’s request lacks legislative purpose is simply not valid.
In their letter to Administrator Murphy, Chairs DeFazio and Titus wrote: “The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has a clear oversight duty to examine the management of your agency, its programs, projects and leases. We can see no legitimate rationale for any claim that the Old Post Office lease should fall into a special category and be excluded from appropriate Congressional oversight and review.” The Members continued: “We expect that GSA will fulfill its obligation to the U.S. Congress, our Committee and the public by providing the totality of the information we have sought.”
Chairs DeFazio and Titus also questioned why GSA was taking legal guidance from the Trump Old Post Office, LLC’s attorney, who has attempted to misconstrue Congress’ oversight authority and thwart the Committee’s investigation into Constitutional Clauses and apparent conflicts of interest.
You can read the full letter HERE.
Background on the Committee’s investigation to date is below.
Among its oversight authority, the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management conducts oversight over public buildings, and the Public Buildings Service of the General Services Administration (GSA). This includes jurisdiction over the lease of the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C., which as of August 5, 2013, is leased to the Trump Old Post Office, LLC. President Trump is the sole beneficiary of a trust with a controlling interest in Trump Old Post Office, LLC.
- November 2016: Peter DeFazio, then-Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and then-Subcommittee Ranking Member Andre Carson join Committee on Oversight & Government Reform then-Ranking Members Cummings and Connolly in sending a letter to then-GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth requesting information about how GSA plans to address the imminent breach-of-lease and conflict of interest issues created by President-elect Donald Trump’s lease with the U.S. Government for the Trump International Hotel building.
- January 23, 2017: DeFazio joins then-House Oversight & Government Reform Ranking Member Cummings in sending a letter to then-GSA Acting Administrator Timothy Horne that requested GSA re-evaluate the Old Post Office lease agreement, provide an explanation of the steps GSA had taken or planned to take in response to the alleged breach of contract, and provide copies of
- notices sent to Trump Old Post Office, LLC concerning the breach of lease or notices sent in response to the public reports of construction liens filed against the Old Post Office building;
- unredacted monthly reports of both the revenues and expenses for the Trump International Hotel;
- any correspondence that GSA had with Trump Old Post Office, LLC or the Trump transition team regarding the Trump International Hotel.
- February 9, 2017: Response letter from GSA declined to provide any substantive information requested.
- March 2017: In-person T&I staff briefing by GSA on the lease following GSA contract officer’s decision that the lease was in compliance.
- March 7, 2017: DeFazio and then-Subcommittee Ranking Member Hank Johnson send letter to GSA IG requesting an investigation into the management and administration of the Old Post Office lease agreement with the Trump Organization.
- April 6, 2017: DeFazio and Hank Johnson join Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Ranking Member Carper and Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Cardin demanding an explanation of why information requested by Ranking Members had not been provided by GSA. The letter requested an explanation for this partisan change in policy, which officials provided this guidance, and whether the White House or any other federal agency provided instruction on this matter.
- June 12, 2017: DeFazio and Hank Johnson send letter to then-GSA Acting Administrator Timothy Horne requesting response to previous letters.
- July 2017:
- As of July 2017: Democrats on T&I had sent five letters to GSA requesting documents related to the Old Post Office lease; GSA failed to provide most of the information requested.
- July 12, 2017: Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management hearing: then-Ranking Member DeFazio repeatedly asks then-Acting GSA Administrator Timothy Horne to answer questions about the administration and management of the Old Post Office lease agreement. Horne was not able to answer DeFazio’s questions and some of Horne's responses directly countered testimony from other GSA officials testifying before the Senate on the same day. Video of that exchange can be found here.
- July 12, 2017: Then-Ranking Member DeFazio and then-Subcommittee Ranking Member Hank Johnson release Democratic staff report titled “Breach of a Lease: The Tale of the Old Post Office in the Swamp” detailing GSA’s complete failure to administer the OPO lease agreement in accordance with the terms of the lease.
- Then-Ranking Members DeFazio and Johnson introduce 115th - H. Res. 437 a Resolution of Inquiry in the House of Representatives to force GSA to produce:
- All guidance or direction to the GSA Acting Administrator or other GSA staff regarding responses to requests for information from Members of Congress and Ranking Members of Committees;
- All documents associated with the OPO lease agreement between the federal government and the Trump Organization, including annual statements, budgets, mortgage agreements, and claims; and
- All legal memoranda or opinions regarding the OPO lease agreement.
- Due to Republican opposition to doing oversight on the lease, DeFazio lost the vote on the “Resolution of Inquiry” and the resolution was reported unfavorably to the floor with no subsequent action.
- January 16, 2019: GSA IG releases report finding that GSA did not consider the emoluments clause in advance of a GSA contracting officer certifying the new organizational structure put in place by President Trump.
- January 22, 2019: Chairman DeFazio and Chair Titus send a letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy requesting records and answers to questions from previous letters.
- February 12, 2019: GSA begins to respond to DeFazio/Titus Jan. 22 request letter with responsive documents and starts a rolling production to the Committee; to date the Committee has received thousands of pages of documents from GSA. However, GSA has not provided certain key categories of documents in these productions.
- July 12, 2019: GSA outlines its refusal to provide T&I with certain records. GSA refuses to provide the committee with legal memos or opinions related to the Old Post Office lease claiming they are “predecisional, deliberative documents containing attorney-client communications” and says they “are not being provided.” GSA also relies on an argument made by the counsel for the Trump Old Post Office LLC to suggest that the T&I committee “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” in seeking financial records related to the lease of the Old Post Office, a federally owned building.
- September 10, 2019: T&I Chair DeFazio and Subcommittee Chair Titus send letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy refuting Trump Old Post Office LLC’s suggestion that the Committee does not have legislative jurisdiction over or proper oversight authority to investigate the Old Post Office lease to the Trump International Hotel and reiterating their request for records GSA has refused to provide to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.