A new FOIA release obtained by Property of the People shows that Trump-owned properties have continued to receive government funds, in what appears to be a violation of the emoluments clause.
Property of the People previously identified payments to Mar-a-Lago from the U.S. Government. The latest release shows that this was not a one-time affair. The new payments show $1,700 went to the Trump International Hotel from the General Services Administration.
As Property of the People co-founder Ryan Shapiro noted, “Regardless of how much he makes on any individual transaction, the President is sending a signal that the White House is open for business. Due to his refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, Donald Trump has turned the American Presidency into a racket.”
Combined with other seeming attempts to monetize the presidency, such as the State Department promoting Mar-a-Lago as the “Winter White House,” along with Trump speaking for the RNC at the Trump Hotel and Trump’s refusal to fully divest himself from his properties, it is hard not to see the Presidency as “open for business” in a pattern that begs the question of what else is left to find. (Readers are strongly encouraged to file FOIA requests to help MuckRock find out.)
You can read the press release from Property of the People below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 2, 2018
Contact: Andy Stepanian, 631.291.3010, firstname.lastname@example.org
FOIA Litigation Reveals U.S. General Services Administration Expenditures at Trump Businesses
Receipts Detail $1760.46 in GSA Charges at Trump Hotel in DC
Washington, DC — As court arguments in the District of Columbia and Maryland litigate whether patronage by state governments and foreign countries at The Trump International Hotel in DC violates the US Constitution, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit from the transparency organization Property of The People has now produced receipts revealing expenditures at the Trump International Hotel by The US General Services Administration (GSA), the agency responsible for administering the travel charge card program for all federal agencies.
The FOIA lawsuit that obtained the receipts was brought by Property of the People and MIT FOIA researcher Ryan Shapiro. The group and Shapiro filed similar FOIA requests with The Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, State Department, Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, and US Customs and Border Protection.
In September 2017, documents obtained by Property of the People from the Coast Guard and DHS revealed National Security Council and other agency payments to Mar-A-Lago and Trump Hotels. These documents provided the first strong evidence of Trump’s violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause. These revelations informed Senators Gary Peters, Elizabeth Warren, and Tom Udall’s decision to introduce the HOTEL Act — Heightened Oversight of Travel, Eating and Lodging — banning executive officials from staying at any property owned by the president, vice president, Cabinet secretaries or their families members.
The document just released by GSA to Property of the People, a microsoft .xls file, highlights $1760.46 in charges made by the GSA across three days in 2017 at the Trump International Hotel in DC and the BLT Prime Restaurant within the DC Trump Hotel.
“Regardless of how much he makes on any individual transaction, the President is sending a signal that the White House is open for business” said Property of the People co-founder Ryan Shapiro. “Due to his refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, Donald Trump has turned the American Presidency into a racket.”
As part of the the organization’s efforts to seek transparency and accountability from the Trump administration, Property of the People has hundreds of FOIA requests in motion with numerous federal agencies, as well as numerous active federal FOIA lawsuits to compel agency compliance with the organization’s requests.
About Property of the People
Property of the People is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit transparency organization dedicated to governmental transparency in the service of democracy. The organization was co-founded by Ryan Shapiro, Jeffrey Light, and Sarahjane Blum. The organization’s motto is, “The records of government are the property of the people. It’s time we reclaim them.” Property of the People is on twitter @propOTP
Ryan Shapiro is a PhD candidate at MIT, a former research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and co-founder of Property of the People. Politico has called Shapiro “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Shapiro is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is on twitter @_rshapiro.
Property of the People and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light assisted by Property of the People counsel, Gunita Singh.
You can support their work at https://www.operationfortyfive.org/donations
Image via by Andrea Hanks via White House Flickr