Trump's hotel seeks a break on rent from Trump's administration

Trump's business is hoping the GSA will be willing to revisit its existing lease agreement. The GSA is led by an administrator Trump chose for the job.
Image: A thunderstorm builds over the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., on June 5, 2018.
A thunderstorm builds over the Trump International Hotel in Washington on June 5, 2018.George Rose / Getty Images file

Donald Trump's private business has generated a few headlines recently, but not in flattering ways.

For example, the White House has celebrated the hotels that are providing health-care workers and first responders "a place to stay while they're on the front lines of the pandemic." It was a nice sentiment, though it generated questions last week about why the Trump Organization's hotels weren't participating in the same efforts.

This week, the New York Times had a related report on the Trump International Hotel, which sits just a few blocks east of the White House, which is struggling like most hotels with empty rooms and dwindling reservations. It's led to an awkward dynamic:

President Trump's signature hotel in the nation's capital wants a break on the terms of its lease. The landlord determining the fate of the request is Mr. Trump's own administration.

Yes, an already messy dynamic is suddenly quite a bit messier. The Trump Organization -- which is to say, the president's family business that he still personally profits from -- pays the General Services Administration (GSA) roughly $268,000 per month as part of a 60-year lease. The building, which was the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue, is a federally owned property, on which the Trump Organization effectively pays rent.

But in the midst of slow business, the president's business is hoping the GSA will be willing to revisit its existing lease agreement. The GSA is led by Emily Murphy -- an administrator Trump chose for the job.

The conflicts of interest are obvious -- and should not exist.

Imagine if the General Services Administration were to tell the Trump Organization, "Sorry, but the existing lease agreement cannot be altered." The president probably wouldn't be pleased, which is something GSA leaders are no doubt aware of. What's more, the GSA also likely realizes that the president has a habit of purging officials who've been deemed insufficiently loyal.

Eric Trump, the president's son, confirmed to the Times that the family business is exploring possible lease changes, adding that he simply wants the GSA to treat the Trump Organization "the same" as other businesses.

Given the circumstances, how would that even be possible?