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GSA 'Improperly Ignored' Constitutional Issues Around Trump Hotel Deal, Inspector General Says

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Trump Hotel Old Post Office Building DC
The entrance to the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office building in D.C.

The General Services Administration, the real estate arm of the federal government, is facing new issues around its handling of The Trump Organization's deal for its D.C. hotel. 

An inspector general report released Wednesday concludes the agency did not properly address constitutional issues around the Trump Organization's lease at the Old Post Office building after Donald Trump was elected president, the Washington Post reports

The constitutional issues center around the emoluments clause, which prohibits elected officials from receiving gifts from foreign and state governments. Trump decided not to divest from his businesses upon taking office, and lawsuits filed against the D.C. hotel have claimed payments to the business represent gifts to the president.

The IG report does not definitively say that Trump violated the emoluments clause, but it concluded that the GSA did not adequately address the issue when deciding if it should allow the lease to continue. The GSA determined Trump was not in violation of the lease in March 2017 and the IG launched its investigation in July 2017. 

"We found that the GSA ... improperly ignored these Emoluments Clauses, even though the lease itself requires compliance with the laws of the United States, including the Constitution," the report said.

The report recommends the GSA conduct a formal legal review that considers the emoluments issue. House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, said he has requested documents from the GSA related to this issue but the agency has refused. 

"This devastating new report from the Inspector General is proof that President Trump should have divested his business interests rather than ignoring the advice of ethics experts," Cummings said in a statement Wednesday. "The Trump Hotel is a glaring physical symbol of the Trump Administration's refusal to play by the same rules as everyone else." 

The findings come after the IG in August released a separate report over the FBI headquarters project, concluding the GSA may have misled Congress about the president's involvement in the agency's decision to reverse course and keep the FBI on Pennsylvania Avenue, one block from Trump's hotel.