Democrats cite gov’t: Trump must divest from DC hotel

FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2016 file photo, the exterior of the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. The government says President-elect Donald Trump must divest all financial interests in his splashy new Washington hotel or be in breach of his lease the moment he becomes president next month, House Democrats said Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government says Donald Trump must divest all financial interests in his splashy new Washington hotel or be in breach of his lease the moment he becomes president next month, House Democrats said Wednesday.

An official from the General Services Administration, which holds the lease on the Trump International Hotel, said in a Dec. 8 briefing that “Mr. Trump must divest himself not only of managerial control, but of all ownership interest as well,” the top Democrats on the House oversight and transportation committees wrote to the agency.

The letter suggests the government concurs with experts who have interpreted the hotel’s lease as saying Trump has to give up his stake in the newly-opened hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Trump Organization won the right to lease the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue in 2012, beating out several groups. Trump and the GSA took more than a year to hammer out a 60-year lease for its use.

At issue are 43 words of the lease’s clause 37.19 on top of page 103, which has been interpreted by some experts on government contracting law — and Trump critics — to force the president-elect to unload his equity stake in the government-owned building near the White House. The document’s key part: No “elected official of the Government of the United States” shall be “admitted to any share or part of this Lease.”

The GSA has concluded that means Trump must dump all of his financial interest before he takes office Jan. 20, according to the House Democrats.

They wrote to GSA Administrator Denise Roth that Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s daughter, has been the chief contact for the agency — which raises “obvious” conflicts of interest.