This Week in Conflicts: GSA Ignored Constitutional Questions Related to President Trump’s D.C. Hotel Lease and Did Trump Tell Cohen to Lie?


This week, a new report says the General Services Administration “ignored” constitutional questions when allowing the lease of the Old Post Office to move forward, T-Mobile executives reserved rooms at the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. as it was announcing merger plans that would require Trump Administration approval and questions about whether President Donald Trump told his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress.

Photo of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney. (Image Credit: Twitter)

Did President Trump Tell Cohen to Lie to Congress?

Buzzfeed is reporting, President Trump “directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.”

A day after the story was published, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office issued a statement saying the Buzzfeed story was inaccurate.

According to the statement from Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”

Buzzfeed has responded to that statement, defending their work and asking the special council’s office to make clear what in the story they are disputing.

So, did President Trump tell Cohen to lie to Congress? Right now, it seems, the answer to that question is unclear.

What we do know is that after the Buzzfeed story published, some Democratic lawmakers were ready to take action. According to Vox, Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-TX) tweeted that if the story is true, “President Trump must resign or be impeached.” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), vowed to do “what’s necessary to find out” if the report is true.

Outside the Trump International Hotel, Washington, DC USA

GSA Ignored Constitutional Questions in Trump D.C. Hotel Lease

An inspector general report says the General Services Administration “ignored” constitutional questions related to the lease of government property used by President Trump and his company for the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C.

“As an executive agency of the United States, both GSA and its employees have an obligation to ensure that agency actions comply with the law, whether the lease incorporates the Constitution or not,” the GSA Inspector General’s Office said. “Using the language some witnesses employed, the Constitution most certainly is in GSA’s purview.”

The focus of the report is on the emoluments clause. The clause bans public officials from receiving gifts and payments from foreign governments without the approval of Congress.

According to Buzzfeed, “the GSA entered into the lease in 2013, before President Donald Trump was a candidate. But the Inspector General’s Office said his election in 2016 and ongoing financial interest in the hotel after he became president raised constitutional issues that the agency was wrong not to address head-on.”

T-Mobile, Newington, CT (Image Credit: Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on YouTube)

T-Mobile, Newington, CT (Image Credit: Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on YouTube)

The Washington Post is reporting, T-Mobile executives had reservations at President Trump’s Washington D.C. hotel the day after announcing merger plans that would need his administration’s approval.

“Staffers at the Trump International Hotel were handed a list of incoming ‘VIP Arrivals,’” the day after the $26 billion merger announcement with Sprint, according to the Washington Post. “That day’s list included nine of T-Mobile’s top executives — including its chief operating officer, chief technology officer, chief strategy officer and chief financial officer, and its outspoken celebrity chief executive, John Legere.”

Those hotel visits were not the only ones made by T-Mobile executives. The Washington Post reports Legere made at least four visits to the Trump-owned hotel and one T-Mobile executive has made at least 10 visits.

“Countries, interest groups and companies such as T-Mobile — whose future will be shaped by the administration’s choices — are free to stop at both, and to pay the president’s company while also meeting with officials in his government,” the Washington Post reports. “Such visits raise questions about whether patronizing Trump’s private business is viewed as a way to influence public policy, critics said.”

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project provides a free, searchable database detailing President Donald J. Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as President of the United States. The project also documents news coverage of these potential conflicts. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, explore our database, and learn more about the project. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, the database will be updated. To help with those updates, get involved by contacting us here. You can also contact us if you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking.

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning freelance journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She produces content focused on government accountability, public access to information and freedom of expression issues. She’s also helping to rebuild trust between newsrooms and the public through the Trusting News project.