By Robert Weissman
U.S. House Democrats have released emails that raise serious concerns about whether President Donald Trump personally directed government officials to prevent the relocation of the FBI’s headquarters from its Pennsylvania Avenue location in Washington, D.C.
These documents suggest the need for further scrutiny of whether the decision was made in an effort to avoid potential competition from commercial developers who might be interested in building a new hotel at the FBI site, which would compete with the Trump International Hotel, located on the same street. (Before Trump got into presidential politics, he even expressed interest in redeveloping the FBI site.)
Trump’s D.C. hotel opened before the 2016 presidential election. It was constructed in a public building, the Old Post Office, and has created the highly unusual situation of a president deriving financial benefit from a business located just blocks from the White House. The hotel has become a watering hole for those seeking to influence the Trump administration.
This president leases property from the United States government, in plain violation of the lease terms that say it cannot be leased to a government official. His hotel hosts foreign governments and trade associations that hold dozens of events there in order to curry favor with him.
Trump’s interference in an office relocation decision, which would replace the FBI’s deteriorating headquarters with a new suburban site, implies the purpose of protecting ill-gotten profits from a government property where Trump is plainly violating the lease terms.
If Trump is willing to do this, of course we should worry that his business operations are affecting his policies on Saudi Arabia, taxes and clean water rules.
No impact on his business operations is too petty to escape his concern. No law, rule or modicum of ethical decency is sufficient to deter his readiness to abuse his power in service of his narrow, narrow interests.
These revelations make clear yet again that the only way for Trump to escape from the pervasive conflicts of interest that are defining his presidency is to divest all of his business holdings, immediately.