The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure issued a report concluding that the General Services Administration — the federal agency in charge of overseeing the Trump Organization’s lease of the Old Post Office for the Trump International Hotel in Washington — completely failed to prevent or even identify potential legal and constitutional violations arising from Trump’s ownership of the hotel, which the committee said operated at a loss for 33 of the previous 53 months.
According to senators, the GSA never even looked to see if Trump was following the Constitution’s emolument clauses, which ban the president from accepting money or favors from foreign or domestic governments. It never investigated whether his government reimbursements for foreign government spending at the hotel were correct, or if financing for the hotel caused conflicts of interest. Trump political appointees at GSA even impacted financial choices impacting Trump’s properties, which was predicted, with Trump operating as landlord and tenant.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the committee’s chairman, told NBC News the report “brings to light GSA’s flagrant mismanagement of the Old Post Office lease and its attempt to duck its responsibility to support and defend the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clauses.” (Trump has remained mum on the report so far.)
We require more robust safeguards. Accountability must be established for Trump’s consistent, corrupt disdain for the Constitution, the law, and ethical values. But we must also understand that we can no longer rely on individuals in positions of power to act in good faith and uphold the rule of law. Trump might find himself in that position again in the future. Others who witness what he got away with may follow in his footsteps. We must fortify our laws and institutions to defend them from those who would and would misuse them.
The Protecting Our Democracy Act, which the House passed last week, includes provisions strengthening the enforcement of the emoluments clauses and gives more teeth to congressional oversight and more protection to inspectors general and whistleblowers. The Senate should pass it as soon as possible. The House-passed For the People Act includes key ethics provisions requiring presidents to sell any businesses they own before taking office. It’s up to the Senate to pass them as well.