Democrats hit Trump on DC hotel lease, but federal agency pushes back on their claims

GSA tells House Dems that Trump must divest DC hotel
GSA tells House Dems that Trump must divest DC hotel

House Democrats said Wednesday that the General Services Administration told them Donald Trump would breach his Washington hotel lease "the moment he takes office" unless he fully divests his interests in it, but the federal agency later disputed that characterization, saying it has not taken a position yet.

Trump's luxury hotel in the Old Post Office Building officially opened earlier this year. A provision in the lease with the GSA states that "No ... elected official of the Government of the United States ... shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom."

Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings, Peter DeFazio, Gerald Connolly and Andre Carson said in a statement that their offices received a briefing from the GSA's deputy commissioner after requesting more information from the agency on Trump's hotel.

"The deputy commissioner made clear that Mr. Trump must divest himself not only of managerial control, but of all ownership interest, as well," they said, adding that the GSA told them that the Trump Organization has not been in contact about the hotel.

Donald Trump attends the grand opening ceremony at the new Trump International Hotel October 26, 2016 in Washington, DC.
Getty Images

But a GSA spokesperson told CNBC that the agency "does not have a position that the lease provision requires the president-elect to divest of his financial interests."

"We can make no definitive statement at this time about what would constitute a breach of the agreement, and to do so now would be premature. In fact, no determination regarding the Old Post Office can be completed until the full circumstances surrounding the President-elect's business arrangements have been finalized and he has assumed office," the spokesperson said.

The hotel is just one among many potential conflicts posed by Trump's global business holdings when he takes office. A government ethics agency has called on Trump to divest from his businesses and establish a qualified blind trust, though the president-elect has rightfully noted that he is exempt from a criminal conflict of interest statute.

Trump's current plan to have two of his children run his businesses along with executives does not qualify as a blind trust, experts have said.

On a call with reporters Trump's transition team declined to comment on the hotel lease. An aide said he will address it at a January news conference. Trump canceled an announcement about his plans for his businesses originally scheduled for Thursday.

The Democrats said that the GSA could officially notify Trump of a breach and then refer it to an independent tribunal that resolves disputes, Politico reported.

— NBC News contributed to this report.

— Update: This story and its headline were updated with additional information to reflect that the GSA disputed the Democrats' claims.