Manila Bulletin

Lawyers: Trump has to sell DC hotel before taking office


NEW YORK (AP) – It's a glittering jewel in Donald Trump's hotel empire. Securing the rights to use the government-owned building where it is housed took him more than a year of negotiatin­g. The resulting lease itself runs hundreds of pages, complicate­d and dreadfully dull.

Dull save for clause 37.19 on top of page 103, which has suddenly become the subject of great discussion among experts on government contractin­g law, and not a few Trump critics.

If some of the experts are correct – a big if – the first 43 words of this clause could force Trump to relinquish his equity stake in the Trump Internatio­nal Hotel just down the street from the White House. The key part: No “elected official of the Government of the United States” shall be “admitted to any share or part of this Lease.”

“He's going to have to divest himself of the hotel,” said John Sindelar, a former senior adviser to the head of the General Services Administra­tion, the government agency that negotiated the lease three years ago. Sindelar left the agency in 2007.

Other contractin­g experts agreed, though not all of them. David Drabkin, once the GSA's senior procuremen­t officer, said he thinks the clause doesn't apply to Trump because it only prohibits adding elected officials to the lease after it was signed, not banning original parties to it who subsequent­ly get elected to office. He adds, though, that a president leasing the building is “absolutely untenable” because of other conflicts of interest issues.

The Trump Organizati­on did not respond to emails asking for comment.

Whoever is correct, get ready for a battle over the issue.

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that legal documents were being prepared that would “take me completely out of business operations,” but made no mention of selling his ownership interest. He has previously said that he planned to have three of his adult children run his business. Contract experts say that would likely fall short of meeting the requiremen­t for holding on to the hotel lease.

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