House Democrats: GSA Says Donald Trump Must Divest Completely From DC Hotel

PHOTO: Pedestrians cross Pennsylvania Avenue across the street from the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, on Sept. 12, 2016. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
Pedestrians cross Pennsylvania Avenue across the street from the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, on Sept. 12, 2016.

House Democrats say in a letter they were told by a deputy commissioner at the General Services Administration that President-elect Donald Trump will be in breach of his contract for his Washington D.C. hotel if he does not completely divest from the property prior to being sworn in as president.

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But the GSA, from which Trump leases the hotel property, said it had not yet established a position on the matter. "GSA does not have a position that the lease provision requires the President-elect to divest of his financial interests," the spokesperson told ABC News in a new statement.

According to the letter to the GSA's administrator, the Democrats say the deputy commissioner of the agency's Public Building's Service -- a civil servant, not a political appointee -- told them during a briefing that Trump would be required to divest.

“The Deputy Commissioner informed our staff that GSA assesses that Mr. Trump will be in breach of the lease agreement the moment he takes office on January 20, 2017, unless he fully divests himself of all financial interests in the lease for the Washington D.C. hotel.

"The Deputy Commissioner made clear that Mr. Trump must divest himself not only of managerial control, but of all ownership interest as well,” the letter adds.

A provision in the lease forbids elected officials from being party to the lease: "No...elected official of the Government of the United States or the Government of the District of Columbia, shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom."

The Democrats write in their letter that the GSA's Deputy Commissioner said it would be standard procedure for the GSA to send a letter to the tenant and give them 30 days to respond. And if the matter is not resolved through that process, it would be standard for the GSA to bring the case before the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals.

The letter also says that the GSA deputy commissioner told them that the GSA has reached out the Trump transition team with the concerns that have been raised about the lease but have not heard back.

But the GSA spokesperson said: "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," the spokesperson continued.

"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," the statement adds.

If Trump does not divest from the Washington hotel property, which the Trump Organization leases from the federal government, Trump would effectively become both tenant and landlord to the property as president.

Asked about the letter on a call with reporters Wednesday, RNC communications director Sean Spicer said that Trump will address the matter at an expected announcement about his business interests in January.

Trump previously said he would hold a press conference on Dec. 15th to clarify how he'll separate himself from his businesses, but that press conference has now been moved to January, according to the transition team.

Ethics advocates have called for Trump to completely divest from his businesses in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest, but Trump has only said that he would turn over control to his two adult sons. Further details about the plan were not released.