Speed Reads

Trump Transition

Donald Trump's inauguration will apparently violate the lease on his favorite new hotel

Once he is sworn in, President-elect Donald Trump will be shielded from most ethics and conflict-of-interest rules that apply to just about every other member of the federal government, but presumably he will still be subject to contract law. That may pose a problem for Trump regarding the newest jewel of his empire, the hotel he just inaugurated in the Old Post Office Pavilion, just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. Trump being effectively "both landlord and tenant" of the Trump International Hotel "presents unprecedented and intolerable conflicts of interest," government procurement experts Steven L. Schooner and Daniel I. Gordon say at Government Executive, but more simply, it also appears to violate "the Trump Organization's 60-year, $180 million lease" on the historic building. They explain:

The Post Office Lease differs from many of Mr. Trump's other business arrangements. That's because, in writing the contract, the federal and D.C. governments determined, in advance, that elected officials could play no role in this lease arrangement. The contract language is clear: "No... elected official of the Government of the United States... shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom..." The language could not be any more specific or clear. Donald Trump will breach the contract on Jan. 20, when, while continuing to benefit from the lease, he will become an "elected official of the Government of the United States." [Government Executive]

The lease is between the Trump Organization and the federal General Services Administration, whose administrator Trump will appoint, and Schooner and Gordon argue that it is up to the GSA to clean up this mess, preferably before Trump takes office. They reject the probable Trump solution, passing the lease off to Trump's adult children, as legally and practically untenable: "Just imagine GSA pressing the Trump organization for more detailed revenue and expense information, or the president's children negotiating annual rent adjustments with a career civil servant who reports to the GSA administrator appointed by their father, who serves at his pleasure."

"In a perfect world, Trump and the GSA would negotiate a mutually agreeable termination of the lease or a novation/transfer to an unrelated firm," Schooner and Gordon say. "Nothing thus far suggests that President-elect Trump appreciates the need to do so. As a result, GSA must take unilateral action." You can read their entire argument at Government Executive.