House Democrats want answers on Trump's Washington Hotel

Dems are using an obscure 1920s law to get answers

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 2, 2017 2:29PM (EDT)

 (Getty/Zach Gibson)
(Getty/Zach Gibson)

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are suing the General Services Administration for information about the Trump International Hotel.

Even though the committee's Republican members aren't supporting the Democrats' actions, the lawsuit is being justified by an obscure 1928 law known as the "Seven Member" rule, which states that if seven members of the committee sign a request then an agency must comply with it, according to The New York Times. Democrats have claimed that the General Services Administration, which manages and supports the functioning of federal agencies, has stonewalled their requests for information about Trump International Hotel, while their Republican colleagues have not properly prioritized the issue.

The concern among the Democrats is that the hotel has refused to be transparent about its financial practices and could have accepted foreign payments that would have violated the emoluments clause. Although the General Services Administration ruled that the hotel had not violated the terms of its lease when Trump took office, the Democrats want a closer look at the organization's conclusion.

"This lawsuit is not just about a hotel in Washington, D.C. 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," Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee's Ranking Democrat, told reporters in remarks prepared for a Thursday news conference.

It remains unclear whether the lawsuit will succeed, as courts have issued different rulings in the past over whether committee members need to be authorized by House leadership to pursue such cases.

The Trump Organization pays the General Services Administration an annual rent of $3 million for the hotel. It is located on a historic site, one that used to be the 119-year-old Old Post Office Pavilion.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa