Supreme Court agrees to hear dispute over Trump’s former DC hotel

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The Supreme Court decided on May 15 to take up a long-running dispute between former President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over the former Trump International Hotel in the nation’s capital.

The case goes back to 2017, when Trump had just become president, and Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress. At that time, several Democrats on the House Oversight Committee demanded that the Trump administration produce records concerning how Trump acquired the rights to develop the historic Old Post Office building, a few blocks away from the White House, as a luxury hotel. The Trump administration refused. Trump critics have alleged that the deal smacked of corruption and said that various organizations, including foreign governments, booked the hotel to curry favor with the administration.

But The Trump Organization said the leasing process was conducted fairly. More than 20 hotel companies bid on the project, and Trump’s company said it “was awarded the job based on the strength of Trump development capabilities, financial wherewithal, vision for the property, and dedication to the preservation of the historic structure.”

Trump left the presidency in January 2021, and The Trump Organization sold the lease to the property in May 2022 to CGI Merchant Group for an undisclosed sum. The hotel is now known as the Waldorf Astoria Washington D.C. and is part of Hilton Worldwide.

“The transaction marks the highest price per key ever achieved in Washington D.C., the highest price per key in U.S. history for a leasehold interest, and the largest sale of a historic hotel in over 15 years,” The Trump Organization said.

Media reports based on unnamed sources indicated at the time that the lease was sold for $375 million and may have netted the Trump family business up to $100 million in profits.

The case is Carnahan v. Maloney, court file 22-425. Robin Carnahan is the administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), an independent agency of the U.S. government that manages federal property and provides contracting options for government agencies. Former Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York, chaired the U.S. House Oversight Committee until she left office on Jan. 3.

The decision to hear the case came in an unsigned order. No justices dissented. In order for a case to be heard, four justices must vote to accept it.

The legal issue is whether individual members of Congress have standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution to sue an executive agency to compel it to disclose information that the members have requested under 5 U.S.C. Section 2954. That law states that a request for information must be acted upon if just seven members of the House Oversight Committee or five members of its counterpart in the Senate demand it. Article III of the Constitution is the article that created the federal judiciary.

A federal district judge threw out the Democrats’ lawsuit in 2018, finding that they lacked standing to bring the case. The court found that the lawmakers weren’t injured by being denied the documents and that there was “no historical precedent for members of Congress to even attempt to enforce unmet … demands through the federal courts.”

But a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned that ruling on a 2–1 vote in 2020, finding that the lawmakers had the right to sue. The panel sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration, stating, “The separation of powers, it must be remembered, is not a one-way street that runs to the aggrandizement of the executive branch.”

In the case at hand, the Biden administration sided with the former Trump administration in defense of presidential authority, urging the Supreme Court to take up the case.

The Supreme Court is expected to hold oral arguments in the case in its new term, which begins in October.

Terrence Clark, of the Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs, told The Epoch Times by email, “No comment from DOJ.”

The Democrats’ attorney, Georgetown University law professor David Vladeck, didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

The GSA and The Trump Organization also didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

This article by Matthew Vadum appeared May 15, 2023, in The Epoch Times.