Democrats sue to get documents on Trump's Washington hotel

WASHINGTON, Nov 2 (Reuters) - U.S. congressional Democrats filed suit on Thursday seeking the release of government documents related to Republican President Donald Trump's ownership of a Washington hotel that critics say represents a conflict of interest.

In the lawsuit, Democrats on the House of Representatives' Oversight and Government Reform Committee said the General Services Administration (GSA), the government's property arm, illegally withheld documents about the Trump International Hotel.

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Donald Trump's new hotel in DC
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Donald Trump's new hotel in DC
A view of the atrium of the Trump International Hotel on its "soft opening" day in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A view of the lobby of the Trump International Hotel on its "soft opening" day in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A bottle of "Trump" champagne in a guest room at the Trump International Hotel on its "soft opening" day in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
In a nod to its roots, an old mail chute remains on the wall in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A waiter pours "Trump" champagne for the first guests to arrive at the Trump International Hotel on its "soft opening" day in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
The atrium of the Trump International Hotel is seen on its "soft opening" day in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Blake and Elanie Yturralde of Florida, the first guests to check-in at the Trump International Hotel, share a toast on its "soft opening" day in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A doorman stands at an entrance to the Trump International Hotel on its "soft opening" day in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A waiter opens a bottle of "Trump" champagne for the first guests to arrive at the Trump International Hotel on its "soft opening" day in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Cars pass the the new Trump International Hotel on it's opening day in Washington September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Protesters hold signs outside the new Trump International Hotel on it's opening day in Washington September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A window washer works atop the glass atrium over the lobby of the Trump International Hotel on its "soft opening" day in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Protesters hold signs outside the new Trump International Hotel on it's opening day in Washington September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A security guard walks behind protesters holding signs outside the new Trump International Hotel on it's opening day in Washington September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Flags fly above the entrance to the new Trump International Hotel on it's opening day in Washington September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Protesters hold signs outside the new Trump International Hotel on it's opening day in Washington September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Workers stand outside the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., August 26, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Sherrie Black of Washington D.C. protests outside the new Trump International Hotel on it's opening day in Washington, September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 12: The Trump International Hotel opens on September 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)
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The 14-page suit marks the latest legal skirmish over the luxury hotel a few blocks from the White House, which has become a rallying point for anti-Trump protesters. Critics say the hotel violates government rules barring elected officials from taking part in a lease of federal property.

Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee's ranking Democrat, said the GSA had ignored federal law by refusing to provide documents about the hotel's operation, foreign payments to the hotel or the legal reasoning that Trump could be a party to the lease.

"We have no transparency - no ability to check for ongoing conflicts of interest or unconstitutional foreign payments," Cummings said in a statement.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court names acting General Services Administrator Timothy Horne as defendant. Pam Dixon, a spokeswoman for the agency, said it would not comment on pending litigation.

Cummings and other critics have argued that the hotel housed in the government's historic Old Post Office represented a conflict of interest because Trump is both landlord and tenant of the building. A GSA contracting officer said in March that the hotel was not in violation of federal conflict-of-interest rules.

Thursday's lawsuit said the GSA rebuffed three requests from committee Democrats for information about the hotel since Trump took office in January. The requests included ones filed under a law which mandates that a federal agency turn over information requested by at least seven members of the committee.

Under the same law, the GSA had produced documents about the Trump International Hotel while Democrat Barack Obama was president, the suit said.

Trump is facing numerous lawsuits targeting his alleged failure to distance himself from his business empire while in office. The president ceded day-to-day control of his businesses to his sons, Eric and Donald Jr., in a move he said would steer clear of conflicts of interest.

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First Family: Getting to know Eric Trump
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First Family: Getting to know Eric Trump

Eric Trump is President-elect Donald Trump's third child with his first wife Ivana Trump. 

Caption: Ivana Trump, Eric Trump, her former husband Donald Trump and her daughter Ivanka Trump in 1998. (Getty)

Eric attended The Hill School, a strict boarding school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. 

Caption: Ivana Trump and Eric Trump in 1996. (Getty)

Eric attended Georgetown University in Washington D.C. He is the only one of the adult Trump siblings that did not attend their father's alma mater University of Pennsylvania. 

Caption: Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump (Reuters) 

Eric is a reality tv star just like his father. He has made appearances alongside the president-elect on The Apprentice as a boardroom judge from 2010-2015. 

Caption: Donald Trump (C) and his sons Eric F. Trump (L) and Donald Trump Jr. (R) attend the 'Celebrity Apprentice All Stars' Season 13 Press Conference in 2012. (Getty)

Eric Trump married his wife Laura in 2014. She is a producer for CBS' Inside Edition. 

Instagram caption: "Amazing that our anniversary is also Election Day! Happy anniversary @laraleatrump 🇺🇸🇺🇸"

Eric founded the Eric Trump Foundation when he was 23-years-old. The charity aims at raising money for children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The organization's website says they have "donated and pledged nearly $30 million dollars to St. Jude."

Instagram caption: "So proud of our @erictrumpfdn Road Scholar truck! It's dedicated to the children of @stjude"

Eric runs the Trump Organization's golf courses. Since joining the organization in 2013, Eric increased the number of international golf courses from three to 17.

Instagram caption: "Beautiful day to play at Trump National Jupiter @larayunaska"

While speaking on the campaign trail in October, Eric Trump mistakenly introduced then-vice presidential candidate Mike Pence as the Governor of Illinois. Pence is the governor of Indiana. The 32-year-old chalked it up to a slip of the tongue. 

Caption: Vice President-elect, Indiana Governor Mike Pence (C) is greeted by Eric Trump (R), son of President-elect Donald Trump. (Getty)

Eric made headlines on Election day after he tweeted a photo of his ballot while voting for his dad. The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before garnering over 3,000 retweets and over 8,000 likes. 

It is illegal in New York to share a photo of your election ballot.

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(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Andrew Hay)

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