Nov. 2, 2017
Federal Officials Are Illegally Withholding Documents on Trump’s Old Post Office Lease, Lawsuit Alleges
Public Citizen Teams With Georgetown Law Professor David Vladeck to File Suit on Behalf of Members of U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The head of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is violating a federal law by withholding documents relating to President Donald Trump’s lease on a federal building, 17 members of Congress said in a lawsuit filed today. Public Citizen’s Litigation Group is joining with its former director, Georgetown Law Professor David Vladeck, as co-counsel for the members.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The members are seeking to enforce their requests for documents from GSA Acting Administrator Timothy Horne relating to the agency’s 2013 lease agreement with Trump Old Post Office LLC, a company owned by the Trump family from which the president has refused to divest ownership since taking office. The lawmakers’ information requests are part of their oversight over GSA’s handling of potential conflicts of interest between Trump’s job as president and his role as a hotel owner.
The GSA has refused to provide the documents even though a federal law commonly called the “Seven Member Rule” requires executive agencies to provide information in response to requests joined by at least seven members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The lawmakers, including ranking member U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), are requesting the court to compel the agency to comply with its mandatory duties under that law.
“If the administration can ignore legal requirements that hold it accountable to congressional oversight, abuses of power are sure to follow,” said Public Citizen attorney Scott Nelson. “There couldn’t be a clearer illustration than GSA stonewalling to cover possible financial conflicts of interest by the Trumps.”
“President Trump’s refusal to divest his ownership interest in a company that contracts with the federal government raises numerous issues requiring congressional oversight, including oversight of potential conflicts of interest, oversight of GSA’s interpretation of the contract requirements and oversight of GSA’s ongoing management of the lease,” the complaint (PDF) states. GSA’s refusal to comply with the Seven Member Rule since Trump’s election and its “shifting and contradictory” excuses for its noncompliance impede the members’ oversight functions, the lawsuit maintains.
The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Stacey Plaskett (D-N.Y.), Val Demings (D-Fla.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Mark Desaulnier (D-Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).