01.11.19

Peters Seeks Answers on Trump Hotel Exemption during Government Shutdown

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter pressing the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and the General Services Administration (GSA) for information on the decision to staff the Old Post Office Tower located within the Trump International Hotel during the government shutdown. The National Park Service (NPS) attraction has continued to operate using NPS personnel, while other NPS sites and parks have closed or struggled to clean up trash and mitigate damage without federal funding.

“As the clock tower at Trump International Hotel in Washington stands open, staffed by NPS personnel, valuable public buildings such as the Smithsonian are shuttered,” wrote Senator Peters. “Meanwhile, mounting trash and unsafe conditions at national park sites across the country are putting people and wildlife in jeopardy. At least three people have died at national park sites since the shutdown began.”

“While GSA has authority to transfer funds to NPS under certain conditions, the lengths to which to your agencies have gone to open the tower facility within a Trump business enterprise have raised public concerns that the tower may be receiving special treatment, in light of a shutdown that has left 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay and crippled our national parks,” Senator Peters continued.

The Old Post Office is a historic building under lease by the GSA to the Trump Organization, which is required to permit public access to certain areas of the building, including the tower. According to recent news reports, the tower was closed on December 22, 2018, when funding lapsed for GSA and Interior, which includes the National Park Service. On January 2, 2019, the tower reopened with funding from GSA, despite the continued government shutdown. Peters is requesting information on why operating the tower is a priority while other critical NPS safety and security functions have been affected by the lapse in federal funding.

The full text of the letter is copied below and available here.

January 10, 2019

The Honorable David Bernhardt

Acting Secretary 

Department of Interior

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, DC 20240

The Honorable Emily W. Murphy

Administrator

General Services Administration

1800 F Street, NW

Washington, DC  20405

Dear Mr. Acting Secretary and Madam Administrator:

I write to request information regarding National Park Service (NPS) staffing of the Old Post Office Tower (tower) located within the Trump International Hotel during the current government shutdown. 

The Old Post Office is a historic building under lease by the General Services Administration (GSA) to the Trump Organization, which is required to permit public access to certain areas of the building, including the tower. The tower was closed by the NPS on December 22, 2018, when funding lapsed for certain agencies including the GSA and the Department of Interior (DOI), of which the NPS is a part. On January 2, 2019, it was reported that the tower would reopen with funding from GSA, and it did. When questioned about this funding, a GSA spokesperson described the funds for reopening the tower as “not associated with the current fiscal year’s (FY 2019) appropriations bill.” Subsequently, it was reported that GSA would tap the Federal Buildings Fund to pay to reopen and staff the tower with NPS employees under an interagency agreement between GSA and DOI, which GSA stated was pursuant to Public Law 98-1.

I would like nothing more than to have all of our rangers and other federal civil servants back at work on behalf of the public.  As the clock tower at Trump International Hotel in Washington stands open, staffed by NPS personnel, valuable public buildings such as the Smithsonian are shuttered.  Meanwhile, mounting trash and unsafe conditions at national park sites across the country are putting people and wildlife in jeopardy.  At least three people have died at national park sites since the shutdown began. Conditions are being described as “dire” and on the brink of causing lasting damage and financial repercussions for parks and surrounding communities.

While GSA has authority to transfer funds to NPS under certain conditions, the lengths to which to your agencies have gone to open the tower facility within a Trump business enterprise have raised public concerns that the tower may be receiving special treatment, in light of a shutdown that has left 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay and crippled our national parks. 

In order to better understand the current state of this matter and in light of the concerns outlined above, I request that you answer the following: 

  1. Please confirm the funding source for (1) the National Park Service employees, and (2) any other federal employees who are staffing the tower during the partial government shutdown.  How much has GSA paid to date during this partial shutdown?  Did GSA pay for these employees prior to the current shutdown?     
  2. What other costs are GSA and/or DOI paying to keep the tower open and provide services, what is the funding source, and how much has been paid and/or obligated to date?  Did GSA pay any of these costs prior to the shutdown?
  3. What other federal facilities are currently being kept open during the shutdown using the same funding source(s) as the tower?  What federal facilities have been closed during the shutdown?  How did GSA make the decision as to how to allocate these funds among federal properties during this government shutdown, and why was the tower prioritized over other federal facilities?
  4. Who made the decision to reopen the tower?  Please confirm the authority under which it was reopened.  What other facilities did GSA determine needed to be reopened after closing those facilities due to the lapse in funding?      
  5. What, if any, communications did GSA and/or DOI officials have with White House officials concerning the decision to reopen the tower and the funding to keep the tower open?  With officials from any business entity affiliated with President Trump or his family?
  6. Was the tower kept open to the public directly preceding, during, and/or after the October 2013 shutdown?
  7. Please provide a copy of the current lease and any prior leases with the Trump Organization for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, as well as a copy of the current interagency agreement between GSA and DOI and prior interagency agreements from 2010 to the present that cover staffing of the tower by NPS employees.

I request that you provide separate agency responses to the above questions on or before January 31, 2019.

###