Democratic members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform filed a federal lawsuit against the President for withholding documents the Members have been seeking for months relating to the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.
“This hotel is not just a building with Donald Trump’s name on it,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the ranking member of the panel. “It is a glaring symbol of the Trump Administration’s lack of accountability and a daily reminder of the refusal by Republicans in Congress to do their job. This may be standard operating procedure in foreign countries—but not here. Not in America.”
The congressmen filed the complaint in Federal District Court in Washington D.C. under a unique federal law known as the “Seven Member” statute.
The law is specific to the Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives and provides that a federal agency “shall” produce documents requested by any seven members of the committee.
Oversight Committee Democrats sent multiple letters over the past year to the General Services Administration (GSA) invoking the Seven Member statute seeking documents in three major areas:
- whether the Office of the Presidency is being used for private gain;
- the extent to which Trump Hotel is receiving payments from foreign governments or officials; and
- the reason GSA reversed its previous legal interpretation of the lease, which explicitly prohibits any “elected official of the Government of the United States” from taking or sharing in any benefit that “may arise” from the lease.
During the Obama Administration, GSA explicitly recognized and complied with requests under the Seven Member statute and produced a wide range of un-redacted documents relating to the Trump Hotel. After Donald Trump was sworn in as President, however, GSA suddenly reversed its position and refused to comply with the law.
“Under the previous administration, this exact same agency—GSA—explicitly recognized our authority under this exact same statute—the Seven Member statute—and produced documents on this exact same issue—the Trump Hotel. But all that stopped on January 20,” said Cummings. “There is one thing, and one thing only, that has changed in this case—President Trump is now sitting in the Oval Office.”
The Trump Hotel lost significant amounts of money in its first two months of operations—before the election—far underperforming the company’s own projections.
According to press reports, however, this changed after Trump was sworn in.
As of August, the Trump Hotel turned a $1.97 million profit despite projecting that it would lose $2.1 million during the first four months of 2017.
“This lawsuit is not just about a hotel in Washington D.C.,” Cummings said. “This is about the President defying a federal statute and denying our ability as Members of Congress to fulfill our constitutional duty to act as a check on the Executive Branch.”
Chairman Trey Gowdy and other Republicans have refused to join Democrats in obtaining these documents. Former Chairman Jason Chaffetz requested only a copy of the lease, but nothing further about its operation or enforcement.
“We regret that we have to go to court to obtain these basic documents, which are clearly within our Committee’s jurisdiction,” Cummings said. “We would not be here today if Chairman Gowdy and his Republican colleagues would do their jobs. In my opinion, House Republicans are aiding and abetting President Trump’s ongoing abuses. Republicans are essentially walling off President Trump from credible congressional oversight.”
Click here for a Fact Sheet with Key Documents, Letters, and Exhibits.
Click here to read the Complaint the Members filed.
To watch a livestream of the press conference at 1pm, click here.
Republican committee members subsequently blocked consideration of all requests by Democrats to debate and vote on six subpoenas for critical documents that are being withheld by the White House and others.
For each of the six subpoena requests, Cummings and other Committee Members had previously sent Gowdy separate, detailed letters setting forth the specific bases for the motions and requesting that Gowdy allow a Committee vote if he declined to issue a subpoena himself:
- White House Withholding Documents on Flynn’s Foreign Contacts: On October 18, 2017, all Democratic Committee Members wrote to Gowdy requesting that he issue a subpoena to compel the White House to produce documents it is withholding relating to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn in response to the Committee’s bipartisan request, or to allow Committee Members to vote on a motion to issue the subpoena.
- White House Withholding Documents on Personal Email Use by Top Aides: On October 20, 2017, Cummings wrote to request that Gowdy join him in demanding full White House compliance with the bipartisan letter that they sent on September 25, 2017, seeking the identities of all White House officials who have used personal email for official business, as well as other information, or to allow Committee Members to vote on a subpoena.
- Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Withholding Documents on Emails: On October 23, 2017, Cummings wrote to request that Gowdy join two previous letters he sent requesting documents relating to Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and Advisor Ivanka Trump, their use of private email accounts and servers for government business in potential violation of the Presidential Records Act, and reports that they relocated their emails to Trump Organization servers in apparent violation of letters from this Committee. In the alternative, Cummings asked Gowdy to allow a Committee vote to subpoena the information.
- White House Withholding Documents on Hurricane Response: On October 26, 2017, Cummings wrote to request that Gowdy reconsider his decision to reject the request from him and Rep. Stacey Plaskett to follow the example of the Committee’s former Chairman, Republican Tom Davis, and request documents from the White House as part of the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into the Trump Administration’s response to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, or to allow all Committee Members to vote on a subpoena motion.
- Governor Snyder Withholding Documents on Flint Water Investigation: On October 24, 2017, Cummings wrote to request that Gowdy issue a subpoena compelling Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to comply in full with the Committee’s bipartisan request for documents on February 26, 2016, relating to the Flint water crisis, including all documents relating to when the Governor became aware of concerns relating to Legionnaires’ disease and lead in the water, or to allow a Committee vote to subpoena the Governor.
- Kushner Companies Withholding Documents on Alleged Housing Abuses: On October 20, 2017, Cummings wrote to request that Gowdy place the full authority of the Committee behind a request that he and other Members of the Maryland Delegation sent on August 18, 2017, requesting documents relating to multiple reports that the Kushner Companies failed to maintain rental units in the Baltimore region in compliance with Department of Housing and Urban Development quality standards, or to allow Committee Members to vote on a motion to subpoena the documents.
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