Ethics watchdog sues GSA over Trump International Hotel lease records

Trump's DC hotel faces lease issue
Trump's DC hotel faces lease issue

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Story highlights

  • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint under the Freedom of Information Act
  • The watchdog group is suing to discover how GSA concluded that the Trump hotel lease was acceptable

Washington (CNN)An ethics watchdog group is suing the General Services Administration for not turning over correspondence and other documents related to the lease of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint Thursday night under the Freedom of Information Act challenging GSA's failure to release the records, which the organization requested several months ago.
"We're suing the GSA to find out what conversations they had with the Trump team before allowing Trump Int'l Hotel in violation of lease," the group tweeted Friday.
    CREW's complaint says it submitted two FOIA requests in February seeking copies of all communications sent to or from the current and previous acting GSA administrators between January 20 and 24, but was told the request was too broad in scope.
    The group also filed requests for notes and other materials from meetings between GSA and Trump company representatives about the hotel, but did not receive them.
    The watchdog group filed an initial complaint with GSA -- an independent federal agency -- back in January, after Trump was inaugurated. The complaint argued he was in violation of the lease because GSA bars elected government officials from receiving any benefit from the agreement.
    But the GSA said in March that it was comfortable with the lease because Trump's financial trusts, and a separate account set up to collect the hotel's profits, are structured to ensure he will not get any money from the hotel while he is in office. It additionally concluded that Trump wasn't in violation of the lease because it was signed before he took office.
    CREW argues Trump will still benefit from the money, even if it's in a separate account while he serves as president.
    Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has jurisdiction over federal buildings, has said he supported an investigation into GSA's handling of the lease. He said the GSA was "entirely unable to justify its determination to me and my staff on multiple occasions."