The historic Old Post Office Tower maintained by the National Park Service in the center of Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. will reportedly reopen during the government shutdown.
The arrangement raises the appearance of special federal treatment for a private business owned by President Donald Trump.
The National Park Service is one of the agencies that’s not funded during the partial shutdown. Once funding was cut off, access to the clock tower at the top of the landmark — as well as exhibits the inside — were closed to the public, including to guests of Trump’s hotel. A sign posted by the National Parks Service said the “clock tower will be closed until further notice,” adding: “Sorry for any inconvenience.” A link to more information about the tower on the National Park Service website no longer works.
But according to Energy and Environment News, the General Services Administration (GSA) will reopen the tower on Friday.
“The referenced facility remains open as the funds needed to operate the Old Post Office tower are not associated with the current fiscal year’s appropriations bill,” GSA told The Hill in a statement.
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) called the funding sleight of hand a “disgrace.”
The historic 270-foot tower and hotel — once the headquarters of the U.S. Post Office — is owned by the GSA. In 2013, the agency leased the property for 60 years to the Trump Organization. That agreement noted that the property could not be leased to an “elected official of the Government of the United States,” but the GSA determined the deal was in “full compliance” because Trump had agreed not to accept direct payments from the hotel.
According to the lease, Trump Hotels must preserve public access to the tower and maintain the entire Post Office site.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Clock Tower Space is part of the Premises … for which Tenant is responsible,” the lease states.
The website for the Trump International Hotel touts the “Clock Tower observation deck with panoramic views of the capital city” as one of the “hotel highlights.”
The hotel is at the center of an emoluments case against the president. The emoluments clause of the Constitution bars federal officials from accepting gifts or benefits from foreign officials or governments. The case, filed by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., accuses Trump of skirting the prohibition with the hotel where they contend foreign leaders can curry favor with the president via pricey bookings and parties.
A spokesman for the Department of the Interior told E&E that the parks service was attempting to keep “iconic areas” open during the shutdown, but that did not include the tower — until the GSA stepped in.