Federal Suit Against Trump Administration for Withholding Documents on Trump Hotel
Oversight Committee Democrats File Federal Suit
Washington, D.C. (Nov. 2, 2017) — Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led Democratic Committee Members in filing a federal lawsuit against the Trump Administration for withholding documents the Members have been seeking for months relating to the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.
“This hotel is not just a building with Donald Trump’s name on it,” said Cummings. “It is a glaring symbol of the Trump Administration’s lack of accountability and a daily reminder of the refusal by Republicans in Congress to do their job. This may be standard operating procedure in foreign countries — but not here. Not in America.”
The Members filed the complaint in Federal District Court in Washington D.C. under a unique federal law known as the “Seven Member” statute. This law is specific to the Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives and provides that a federal agency “shall” produce documents requested by any seven Members of the Committee.
Oversight Committee Democrats sent multiple letters over the past year to the General Services Administration (GSA) invoking the Seven Member statute seeking documents in three major areas:
· whether the Office of the Presidency is being used for private gain;
· the extent to which Trump Hotel is receiving payments from foreign governments or officials; and
· the reason GSA reversed its previous legal interpretation of the lease, which explicitly prohibits any “elected official of the Government of the United States” from taking or sharing in any benefit that “may arise” from the lease.
During the Obama Administration, GSA explicitly recognized and complied with requests under the Seven Member statute and produced a wide range of unredacted documents relating to the Trump Hotel. After Donald Trump was sworn in as President, however, GSA suddenly reversed its position and refused to comply with the law.
“Under the previous administration, this exact same agency — GSA — explicitly recognized our authority under this exact same statute — the Seven Member statute — and produced documents on this exact same issue — the Trump Hotel. But all that stopped on January 20,” said Cummings. “There is one thing, and one thing only, that has changed in this case — President Trump is now sitting in the Oval Office.”
The Trump Hotel lost significant amounts of money in its first two months of operations — before the election — far underperforming the company’s own projections. According to press reports, however, this changed after President Trump was sworn in. As of August, the Trump Hotel turned a $1.97 million profit despite projecting that it would lose $2.1 million during the first four months of 2017.
“This lawsuit is not just about a hotel in Washington D.C.,” Cummings said. “This is about the President defying a federal statute and denying our ability as Members of Congress to fulfill our constitutional duty to act as a check on the Executive Branch.”
Chairman Trey Gowdy and other Republicans have refused to join Democrats in obtaining these documents. Former Chairman Jason Chaffetz requested only a copy of the lease, but nothing further about its operation or enforcement.
“We regret that we have to go to court to obtain these basic documents, which are clearly within our Committee’s jurisdiction,” Cummings said. “We would not be here today if Chairman Gowdy and his Republican colleagues would do their jobs. In my opinion, House Republicans are aiding and abetting President Trump’s ongoing abuses. Republicans are essentially walling off President Trump from credible congressional oversight.”
Click here for a Fact Sheet with Key Documents, Letters, and Exhibits.
Click here to read the Complaint the Members filed today.
To watch a livestream of the press conference at 1pm, click here.