The historic Post Office Pavilion in Washington, DC is at the center of a hot procurement debate. Since 2012, the building is under lease by the Trump Organization to operate a luxury hotel. With Jan. 20th looming over the United States as we wait for President-Elect Trump’s inauguration, Mr. Trump’s business ties with the General Services Administration are coming to the forefront of the debate.
The Post Office lease between the GSA and the Trump Organization is a 60-year, $180 million-dollar deal that is now at the center of constitutional scrutiny. 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….”(top of page 103 Ground Lease) . As things stand right now, not only would Mr. Trump profit and be in clear violation of this contractual clause, there are other delineating factors to consider; Mr. Trump will now be the individual in charge of appointing a new GSA administrator, a person who would be directly involved in negotiations and changes to the contract he holds, including but not limited to rent increase.
The contractual question is whether a blind trust run by Mr. Trump’s children is truly blind enough to be considered separate from the President Elect. Especially considering his children having active roles in Mr. Trump’s transition team and interacting with foreign officials, the lines between business government are being blurred. Although Trump’s team is sighting a Dec 15th conference, where Mr. Trump’s involvement in his own business will be cleared up, the mixing of his family in both business and government does raise concerns for many in Washington.
Government procurement experts are urging the GSA to terminate the lease before Mr. Trump’s inauguration, however this is the first time that the GSA has acknowledged this as a potential problem. Whether the conflict of interest that this situation produces is valid, the contract clauses the govern the situation seem clear and lays out a way for the GSA.