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GSA Official Called Trump Hotel Ethics Concerns 'Nonsense' Four Months Before Clearing Lease

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 agency in charge of managing the federal government's real estate, has found no wrongdoing related to The Trump Organization's lease of the Old Post Office building, even as lawsuits pile up, and a newly released email sheds light on the agency's thinking.

GSA contracting officer Kevin Terry, who determined in March that President Donald Trump's business arrangement did not violate the lease, had called the ethics issue "nonsense" in a message to a Trump employee roughly four months earlier, Bloomberg reports

In an email released through the Freedom of Information Act, Terry forwarded a Buzzfeed News article about the potential conflict of interest to a Trump employee, adding the comment "FYI- a fair amount of nonsense." 

The Project on Government Oversight, a D.C.-based ethics watchdog, said the email shows that “very early on GSA didn’t take the potential of a conflict of interest very seriously."

Trump, who chose not to divest from his business interests, owns roughly 77% of the LLC leasing the building from the GSA. A clause in the lease, stating that no elected official could benefit from the deal, has led congressional Democrats and ethics watchdogs to call on the agency to void the contract. 

Last month, the hotel was cited as a possible constitutional violation. The attorneys general of Maryland and D.C. filed a lawsuit against Trump claiming he violated the constitution's Emoluments Clause by accepting payments from foreign governments at the hotel. Similar lawsuits have also been filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and by a competing restaurant owner.

The hotel has brought in $19.7M in revenue since opening, according to Trump's financial disclosure report released last month.