Capital T: The Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue has a 60-year lease from the U.S. government.
Donald Trump, the landlord, was often accused of using his time in the Oval Office to pad his private business interests. His critics repeatedly decried his lack of transparency. The former president never had to publicly disclose who his tenants were because his commercial real estate portfolio was held by a collection of shell companies, and federal disclosure laws only apply to direct payments.
Last year Forbes revealed that 25 commercial tenants renting space in Trumps buildings were throwing him some $115 million a year. During the former presidents time in office, some of those tenantsfrom big investment banks to household-name consumer brands like Nike, Duane Reade and Starbuckshad either lobbied the federal government or bid for federal contracts, or sometimes both.
Meanwhile, the whiff of impropriety has also lingered over Donald Trump, the tenant. His lavish Washington, D.C. hotel is ensconced inside the spectacular Old Post Office, a federal building with a unique, historic importance to the country. From its completion in 1899, the impressive building, whose iconic clock tower houses the Bells of Congress, served for years at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue as the main post office for the nations capital. Yet in the modern era, the building had become an underutilized money pit.
In 2012, the U.S. government awarded a 60-year lease to the Trump Organization, which beat out bids by hospitality behemoths Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide. Trump said that he had paid too much, and history may prove that Uncle Sam got the best of him.
In striking a deal with the General Services Administration (GSA), the agency that manages federally owned properties, the Trump Organization agreed to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to painstakingly restore the buildings Romanesque Revival exterior and convert the interior into a luxury hotel. To cover the massive renovation costs, Trumps company invested $42 million, got an historic-preservation tax credit to cover roughly $40million, and took out a $170 million loan from Deutsche Bank, which appears to be in trouble. On top of all of that, the Trump Organization pays the government approximately $248,000 per month in rentwhich works out to a cool $3 million per year.
Throughout Trumps presidency, Democratic members of the U.S. Housesubcommittee tasked with oversight of federal real estate assets argued that Trump was in breach of the lease when he became president, on the grounds that the agreement prohibits any elected official from benefitting personally from the lease. They made 10 requests for financial statements relating to the Trump International Hotel, including a subpoena in 2019. All were blocked by the Trump-appointed GSA administrator.
But now it appears that the eleventh times the charm. With a Biden-appointed acting administrator now running the agency, the GSA is finally coughing up some of those documents, CNN reported last week. The GSA conveyed to House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio, the that it was turning over monthly financial statements from Trumps hotel, audits and lease amendments.
The GSA provided those documents on a confidential basis and have not released them publicly, though some older documents relating to the Old Post Office are available online. Many have been heavily redacted.
Yet despite the GSAs years of stonewalling and less-than-transparent paper trail, Trump foes hoping to discover a smoking gun may be disappointed.
The tenant is paying the rent as agreed to under the lease and has been making rental payments consistent with its obligations under the lease. Those payments have not been late, said a GSA spokesperson via email.
In April 2020, the Trump Organization requested rent relief on the property during the pandemic, The New York Times reportedbut that request was denied.
The tenant did not receive rent relief for the OPO lease, according to the GSA. And there have been no amendments to the lease to change the rental payments.
That is all 100% correct, a Trump Organization spokesperson confirmed via email.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place in the grand lobby of Trump international Hotel on October 26, 2016. (Photo by Cheriss May)
In many ways, the fortunes of Trumps D.C. hotel have mirrored the former presidents political trajectory. Right after the 2016 presidential election, the hotel became instantly synonymous with schmoozy grift, as right-wing personalities and GOP elected officials made a point of frequenting the hotel and taking selfies in the Benjamin Bar. The hotel took in $18 million in the first four months of 2017 and another $34 million in the last eight,according to Trumps financial disclosure report.
But in time, the magic wore off. By 2019, the Trump Organization had quietly put the hotel on the market but failed to nab a bid even close to the $500 million asking price. Trumps lastfinancial disclosure report,released in the hours after his presidency ended, showed theTrump International Hotels revenue was down$33 million in 2020a 62% drop from the previous year. And while the hotel was eventually pulled off the market, Bloomberg reported last month that the Trumps were still open to offers.
Now, with Trump having exited D.C., the line of folks wanting to curry favor by spending a few nights at his hotel or making an appearance at the restaurant has dwindledleaving the hotels future unclear.
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