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Changes to lease mean Trump doesn't have a conflict at his Washington hotel, agency rules

 (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

President Trump can continue to lease a downtown Washington hotel from the federal government, a federal agency has decided, determining that the unprecedented arrangement does not present a conflict.

The Trump organization has changed the lease to prevent the president from receiving any of the proceeds from hotel operations, a contracting officer with the General Services Administration, the agency that serves as the government's landlord, wrote in a letter released Thursday afternoon.

Together with the president’s decision to turn operation of the business over to his sons, that was enough to satisfy GSA that the president’s company, Trump Old Post Office LLC, was not in violation of a provision of its lease that forbids any federal official from benefiting from the deal.

“Accordingly, the lease is valid and in full force and effect,” said the letter signed by the contracting officer, Kevin M. Terry.

The luxury Trump International Hotel a few blocks from the White House is one of the most visible examples of the complications presented by Trump serving as president while continuing to own a worldwide network of hotels, golf courses and other properties.

One recent lawsuit, filed by a Washington restaurant owner, argues that the Trump hotel will unfairly grab business because lobbyists, foreign governments and others will be trying to buy favor from the White House.

According to the GSA, the Trump organization wrote an amendment saying that all revenues from the hotel will stay with the hotel — and not flow to the president’s trust company.

“In other words, during his term in office, the president will not receive any distributions from the trust that would have been generated from the hotel,” Terry wrote.

But the leader of one watchdog group called the GSA's stand a “very tortured reading” of the contract. Trump will continue to benefit from having money flow to a company that he owns, said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy21, which advocates for transparency and limits on political spending.

“So this doesn’t make any sense to me, and it seems like GSA has leaned over backwards to accommodate the president here,” he said. “This is one more example of why President Trump should have divested his assets into a blind trust,” he added.

1:12 p.m. This post was updated with reaction from Fred Wertheimer.

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