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Top Democrats Blast GSA For Ignoring Oversight Requests for Information on the Trump Old Post Office Lease

Jun 13, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Hank Johnson (D-GA) sent a letter to the Acting Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Tim Horne, blasting the agency for failing to respond to repeated requests for information related to the Old Post Office lease agreement between GSA and the Trump Organization.

“Under the Trump administration, GSA has been nonresponsive to our written inquiries. We regard this as an abdication of your responsibility to run an open and transparent independent agency on behalf of the American people. GSA’s mission to provide billions of dollars in real estate services for Federal agencies carries with it the obligation to ensure that taxpayers are getting the best value possible in every lease agreement. This mandate requires your agency to disclose information about its policies and the decisions it makes to us, the elected representatives of the American people. We strongly urge you to respond to our previous letters by June 19, 2017, and provide the information we require so that our Committee can fulfill its constitutional duty to conduct oversight of GSA,” they write.

GSA has failed to provide any information requested by the Democrats, including copies of any 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. In addition, Democrats have requested unredacted monthly reports of both the revenues and expenses for the Trump International Hotel and any correspondence that GSA had with Trump Old Post Office, LLC or the Trump transition team regarding the Trump International Hotel. GSA has failed to provide these documents.

At a March 31, 2017 briefing, GSA informed Committee staff that the policy regarding providing information to Congress changed on January 20. GSA stated that it will respond to requests by Ranking Members on a discretionary basis only, and that GSA no longer considered an inquiry from a Committee Ranking Member to require a response.

On April 6, 2017, together with Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Carper and Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Cardin, DeFazio and Johnson wrote to Acting Administrator Horne demanding an explanation of why information requested by the Ranking Members has 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. They have not yet received an answer to this inquiry.

A full copy of the letter is below.

 

June 13, 2017

Mr. Timothy Horne

Acting Administrator

U.S. General Services Administration

1800 F Street, NW

Washington, DC  20405

 

Dear Acting Administrator Horne:

As Ranking Members of the House Committee and Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the General Services Administration (GSA) Public Building Service, we have repeatedly written to you seeking information essential to our constitutional oversight duties. You have failed to respond substantively to multiple requests for information.  Your failure to respond is unacceptable.

On January 23, 2017, Ranking Member DeFazio, together with Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Cummings, wrote to you asking you to re-evaluate the Old Post Office lease agreement between GSA and the Trump Old Post Office, LLC. Specifically, we requested that you evaluate the Old Post Office lease agreement in light of the announcement by President-elect Donald Trump on January 11 that he was refusing to divest his ownership interests in the Trump Old Post Office, LLC; and that on January 20, 2017, he took the oath of office to become the 45th President of the United States, creating the untenable position of being both landlord and tenant of the Old Post Office building.

In that same letter, we also asked you to explain the steps that GSA had taken or planned to take to address President Trump’s apparent breach of the Old Post Office lease agreement provision barring any elected official from being a lessee, or deriving any benefit from the lease. We asked GSA for copies of any 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. In addition, we requested unredacted monthly reports of both the revenues and expenses for the Trump International Hotel and any correspondence that GSA had with Trump Old Post Office, LLC or the Trump transition team regarding the Trump International Hotel.

In a response letter of February 6, 2017, your then-Acting Associate Administrator declined to provide any of the substantive information that we requested. He explicitly stated that GSA would not provide the unredacted revenue and expense reports. Further, he stated that GSA was “monitoring” the issue of mechanics’ liens against the Hotel, but provided no other information. Finally, he provided copies of two letters from GSA to Trump Old Post Office, LLC, yet the text of these letters clearly indicates there exists additional material responsive to our request that was not provided.

On March 23, 2017, the GSA contracting officer for the Old Post Office lease agreement wrote to Donald Trump, Jr., that the Trump Old Post Office, LLC was in full compliance with the lease (the aforementioned deficiencies notwithstanding). Given the intense Congressional interest in this matter, GSA held an in-person briefing that provided answers to some of our questions, though most of our inquiries were not addressed. Specifically, GSA continued to refuse to provide the monthly reports required by the lease agreement, making it impossible to understand the financial health of the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office, whether there are Foreign Emoluments clause violations, whether the Trump Old Post Office, LLC is meeting its financial goals, and whether GSA is receiving its share of profits pursuant to the Old Post Office lease agreement.

Of note, at that briefing, the Deputy Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service stated that on January 20, 2017, GSA policy regarding providing information to Congress changed. He stated that GSA will respond to requests by Ranking Members on a discretionary basis only, and that GSA no longer considered an inquiry from a Committee Ranking Member to require a response.

On April 6, 2017, together with Committee on Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Carper and Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure Cardin of the Senate, we wrote to you demanding an explanation of why information requested by Ranking Members has 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. We have not yet received an answer to this inquiry.

Under the Trump administration, GSA has been nonresponsive to our written inquiries.

We regard this as an abdication of your responsibility to run an open and transparent independent agency on behalf of the American people. GSA’s mission to provide billions of dollars in real estate services for Federal agencies carries with it the obligation to ensure that taxpayers are getting the best value possible in every lease agreement. This mandate requires your agency to disclose information about its policies and the decisions it makes to us, the elected representatives of the American people.

We strongly urge you to respond to our previous letters by June 19, 2017, and provide the information we require so that our Committee can fulfill its constitutional duty to conduct oversight of GSA.

Sincerely,

 

PETER DeFAZIO                                         HANK JOHNSON                

Ranking Member                                             Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management

 

cc:        The Honorable Bill Shuster

            Chairman, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

            The Honorable Lou Barletta

Chairman, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management

 

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