Tag Archives: DOJ

Litigation Reveals GSA Expenditures at Trump International Hotel in DC

Litigation Reveals GSA Expenditures at Trump International Hotel in DC

Washington, DC — As court arguments in the District of Columbia and Maryland litigate whether patronage by state governments and foreign countries at The Trump International Hotel in DC violates the US Constitution, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit from the transparency organization Property of The People has now produced receipts revealing expenditures at the Trump International Hotel by The US General Services Administration (GSA), the agency responsible for administering the travel charge card program for all federal agencies.

The FOIA lawsuit that obtained the receipts was brought by Property of the People and MIT FOIA researcher Ryan Shapiro.  The group and Shapiro filed similar FOIA requests with The Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, State Department, Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, and US Customs and Border Protection.

In September 2017, documents obtained by Property of the People from the Coast Guard and DHS revealed National Security Council and other agency  payments to Mar-A-Lago and Trump Hotels. These documents provided the first strong evidence of Trump’s violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.  These revelations informed Senators Gary Peters, Elizabeth Warren, and Tom Udall’s decision to introduce the HOTEL Act — Heightened Oversight of Travel, Eating and Lodging — banning executive officials from staying at any property owned by the president, vice president, Cabinet secretaries or their families members.

The document just released by GSA to Property of the People, a microsoft .xls file, highlights $1760.46 in charges made by the GSA across three days in 2017 at the Trump International Hotel in DC and the BLT Prime Restaurant within the DC Trump Hotel.

“Regardless of how much he makes on any individual transaction, the President is sending a signal that the White House is open for business,” said Property of the People co-founder Ryan Shapiro.Due to his refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, Donald Trump has turned the American Presidency into a racket.”

As part of the the organization’s efforts to seek transparency and accountability from the Trump administration, Property of the People has hundreds of FOIA requests in motion with numerous federal agencies, as well as numerous active federal FOIA lawsuits to compel agency compliance with the organization’s requests.

Related Documents

  1. View the list of GSA charge card expenses HERE
  2. Read the GSA’s response to Property of the People’s suit HERE
  3. Read Property of the People’s initial complaint HERE

About Property of the People

Property of the People is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit transparency organization dedicated to governmental transparency in the service of democracy. The organization was co-founded by Ryan Shapiro, Jeffrey Light, and Sarahjane Blum. The organization’s motto is, “The records of government are the property of the people. It’s time we reclaim them.” Property of the People is on twitter @propOTP

Ryan Shapiro is a PhD candidate at MIT, a former research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and co-founder of Property of the People. Politico has called Shapiro “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Shapiro is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is on twitter @_rshapiro.

Property of the People and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light assisted by Property of the People counsel, Gunita Singh.

You can support their work at operationfortyfive.org/donations

Documents Revealing Agency Payments to Mar-A-Lago and Trump Hotels Provide Strong New Evidence for Impeachment

Documents Revealing Agency Payments to Mar-A-Lago and Trump Hotels Provide Strong New Evidence for Impeachment

The White House National Security Council (NSC) paid over $1,000 for an unidentified guest to stay two nights at Donald Trump’s luxury resort Mar-a-Lago, according to an invoice obtained by transparency group Property of the People via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. This payment, made with a U.S. government charge card, constitutes the first documented violation by President Trump of the Constitution’s Domestic Emoluments Clause. President Trump owns 99.99% of Mar-a-Lago, LLC directly, and the company’s profits are held in a revocable trust from which Trump may withdraw funds without restriction.

This and related documents were recently obtained via a FOIA request submitted by Property of the People as part of the organization’s Trump administration-specific transparency project, Operation 45.

The NSC invoice is the strongest evidence uncovered to date that Trump’s refusal to divest from his business empire has resulted in Trump’s violation of the Constitution’s anti-corruption Domestic Emoluments Clause. This provision prohibits the President from receiving emoluments (profitable payments, benefits, or advantages) paid by federal or state governments, beyond the salary approved by Congress.

A receipt from Donald Trump’s luxury Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago showing that the White House National Security Council was charged $1,092.00 for a guest to stay at the resort on March 3, and 4 of 2017. A copy of this invoice and several others can be reviewed in full HERE.

In the past, presidents possessing significant business holdings have divested themselves of their holdings or placed them into a blind trust prior to assuming office. President Trump, however, has adamantly refused to do either. Instead, Trump has placed his business empire into a revocable trust administered by his sons, a move that has been widely viewed by experts as insufficient. This trust is set up to allow Trump to withdraw any amount of money at any time for any reason “at his request.”

 

The released documents show that Mar-A-Lago charged the NSC full price for the rented room instead of offering the NSC a discounted rate covering only the resort’s costs. The NSC receipt lists the rate paid by the National Security Council as the “rack rate,” meaning the standard, non-discounted rate for the room. As such, the NSC’s payment to Mar-A-Lago constitutes a direct, profitable payment from a U.S. government agency to a business personally owned by Donald Trump. This is strong evidence of a violation by President Trump of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

A receipt from Donald Trump’s exclusive Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower in Panama showing that the US Embassy was charged $632.00 for a 4 night rental at the tower in June, 2017. A copy of this invoice and several others can be reviewed in full HERE.

Property of the People also obtained invoices showing payments by the United States Embassy to Trump’s hotel in Panama, and documentation of payments by unidentified federal employees to Trump’s Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas hotels. These payments were all made on official U.S. government charge cards. They were obtained through Property of the People’s FOIA request to the United States Coast Guard, which administers the charge card program for the Department of Homeland Security.

To date, discussion of the potential constitutional implications arising from Trump’s business holdings has focused primarily on the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Three lawsuits have now been filed against President Trump alleging violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, and legal scholars and cities across the country are already calling for Trump’s impeachment on grounds including Foreign Emoluments violations. Far less attention has paid to the Domestic Emoluments Clause. The documents just obtained by Property of the People are the first solid evidence uncovered of Trump’s violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.

According to Property of the People Director Ryan Shapiro:

“These documents represent perhaps the clearest evidence yet that President Trump has violated the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The likely constitutional violation here belongs in any forthcoming articles of impeachment. Due to his glaring refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, the President has no one to blame but himself.”

Shapiro and Property of the People are also calling on the Department of Justice, which has jurisdiction over potential violations of the Domestic Emoluments Clause, to investigate. Says Shapiro:

“These invoices are strong evidence of a constitutional violation and they warrant a thorough investigation by the Department of Justice.”

The complete set of documents obtained by Property of the People show that:

  1. The National Security Council paid $1,092 for a March 3-4, 2017 stay at President Trump’s luxury Palm Beach, FL golf resort, Mar-a-Lago.
  2. The U.S. Embassy in Panama paid $632 for a March 23, 2017 stay at Donald Trump’s Trump International Hotel & Tower in Panama City.
  3. The Coast Guard paid $186.17 for a June 11-14, 2017 stay at Donald Trump’s Trump International Hotel & Tower in Las Vegas.
  4. The documents obtained by Property of the People also reveal the Coast Guard paid $62.40 for food or drink at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC on June 2, 2017.

The documents were obtained in response to a FOIA request submitted by Property of the People to the United States Coast Guard. Property of the People is also pursuing the release of charge card records from other federal agencies to which the organization has submitted similar requests. These agencies include the United States Secret Service, the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, Customs and Border Patrol, the General Services Administration, and the Department of Defense.

Related Documents

  1. DHS / Coast Guard Trump Properties Response, HERE
  2. Letter from Property of the People Calling on Attorney General Sessions and DOJ to Investigate Violations of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, HERE
  3. DHS Charge Card Expenses (March 3-5), HERE
  4. DHS Cover Letter, HERE

About Property of the People’s Operation 45

Property of the People is non-profit transparency organization co-founded in November 2016 by Ryan Shapiro and Jeffrey Light. Property of the People’s project Operation 45 seeks transparency and accountability from the Trump Administration. The Nation calls Operation 45 a ray of hope in these dark political times.”  Operation 45 is on twitter @opfortyfive

Ryan Shapiro is the co-founder and Director of Property of the People and a Ph.D. candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as a former Research Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Shapiro is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro is widely known as a leading expert on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Politico describes Shapiro as “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Shapiro’s path-breaking FOIA work has led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research methodologies a threat to national security. In November 2016, Shapiro co-founded the non-profit transparency organization Property of the People, whose project Operation 45 seeks transparency and accountability from the Trump Administration.  Shapiro is on twitter @_rshapiro.

Property of the People and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC based FOIA specialist attorney, Jeffrey Light. Light is on Twitter at @_lightlaw.

You can support Property of the People by donating HERE

Peter King Skips Town Hall for Closed Door Meeting, Activists Release Transcript

Peter King Skips Town Hall for Closed Door Meeting, Activists Release Transcript

Massapequa Park, NY – Members of new group, New York’s 2nd District Democrats (NY02 Dems) have been requesting meetings with Rep. Pete King. He has refused to schedule constituent meetings or hold a Town Hall. He has also been deleting dissenting comments from his Facebook page, and blocking constituents. On Friday, February 3, the group joined a half dozen local organizations and faith groups in organizing a rally to protest Rep. King’s support of President Trump’s Executive Order, banning refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Liuba Grechen Shirley, the founder and district organizer, of NY02 Dems called to request a meeting before the rally began, and was told that staff would try to meet with her and a few members that afternoon. When they arrived, the office was locked. Grechen Shirley called the district office, and was transferred to the Washington, D.C. office, who told her that the police insisted the NY office lock its doors. Hundreds marched, and Rep. King agreed to meet with Grechen Shirley and three other members on February 21.

Read Full Transcript of their Meeting HERE

After the meeting, King told WCBS 880 he personally met with leaders of “protest groups.” Grechen Shirley called King’s office to explain that she was in fact a “taxpaying constituent,” not a “leader of a protest group.”

During their meeting they discussed topics including: 

Town Hall

Rep. King told Grechen Shirley that his constituents know his positions, because he is regularly on television, and he refused to host a Town Hall adding that, “No one wants to have a confrontation.”

“The purpose of a Town Hall is not for constituents to hear our Representative’s positions, but for him to listen to ours. He works for us. He represents us – all of us, even those who didn’t vote him. When my boss calls me into a meeting, I cannot say no. Pete King is refusing to do his job,” said Liuba Grechen Shirley.

Grechen Shirley has been following up with his office regarding the telephone Town Hall, and has been told that, while not confirmed, the tentative date is this Wednesday, March 8. She suggested that one day’s notice is not sufficient for constituents with busy schedules.

“Rep. King’ office is clearly not taking this seriously. His constituents want to speak with him, and he cannot even give one day’s notice for a telephone Town Hall.  People have jobs, children, schedules to juggle. This is his attempt to limit the number of people able to attend,” said Grechen Shirley.

Russia Investigation

When asked if he would support Rep. Jerry Nadler’s Resolution of Inquiry to investigate President Trump’s ties to Russia, Rep. King responded, “There’s no need for it.” He added that, “The public report and the classified report does not give much evidence.”

Rep. King does not support a special prosecutor, independent commission, or even a select committee investigation.

When interviewed by Bill Ritter on Channel 7, Rep. King said there was no evidence of President Trump’s ties to Russia, except three tenuous connections. Liuba Grechen Shirley asked if he thought it was “fair to say that Trump’s former campaign manager, national security advisor and Secretary of State were tenuous connections,” and Rep. King responded that “If you go to Manhattan right is now there is any number of business people who have connections to Russia.”

Rep. King said that, “An investigation is going to prove nothing right now.”

Grechen Shirley asked, “How do you reconcile your assertion that there is no evidence, with the intelligence community’s conclusion that Putin interfered with our election to get Donald Trump elected?”

Rep. King responded, “Putin could have favored Trump.” “That’s not a reflection on Trump. Assume Putin did that.”

Trump’s Lies

Rep. King referred to President Trumps lies as “quirks” and a “stream of consciousness.” He said, “You want me to define a lie? When something is obviously wrong and you say it, is it really a lie? I don’t know.”

When discussing President Trump’s lie about an attack in Sweden, Rep. King said, “I can see how somebody can do that. I mean Hillary Clinton said she was shot at in Bosnia.” When Grechen Shirley said, “When you’re in that position you can’t do that,” he seemed to excuse it by saying, “You cant, but again I can show you any number of things that Bill Clinton said or I’ve said.”

Undermining the Media

Grechen Shirley asked Rep. King, “Donald Trump recently called the media ‘the enemy of the American people.’  Bannon said the press should ‘keep their mouths shut.’  Do you think those comments are crossing a line?”

Rep. King responded, “No they don’t cross the line.  First of all he’s not doing anything. Nobody went after the press more than Obama did as far as leaks.”

When pressed on this, King said, “That to me is just political.  Listen the stuff that the Press says about Trump I don’t get offended. All of us are big people in this business.  There’s no doubt there’s a bias.” “The First Amendment also guarantees the president freedom of speech. Nothing he’s saying is worse that what the media is saying about him.”

When asked about McCain’s statement, “This is how dictatorships start,” Rep. King said:
“I think John McCain is wrong for saying it overseas.  There is no hint of any dictatorship in this country. Trump is taking no action against the media. He’s not cutting off the media.  I supported John McCain’s presidents in 2000. We are personal friends. But I don’t think an American politician should first of all criticize the president when he’s overseas.”

Donald Trump’s Tax Returns

Regarding President Trump’s tax returns, Rep. King said, “I wouldn’t push. I don’t think that should be legislated. Okay? I think that’s really a political issue in the best sense of the word and it’s up to the American people to decide that.  I don’t believe in forcing people to disclose that.”

Syria

Rep. King said that Obama was “the one that brought Syria back into the Middle East.”“Obama invited Putin in!  Obama’s the one who — Putin was not involved in Syria, Putin had nothing to do with Syria.  Obama invited him in, because he wouldn’t enforce the red line.”

This of course is a false narrative, trying to paint Obama as weak and miscalculating. Assad, and Putin have had a longstanding relationship, and close ties between the two countries stretch back four decades. Syria is Russia’s only key surviving ally in the Middle East. Syria’s coastal city, Tartus, has hosted a Russian naval port since 1971. The port allows the only Russian access to the eastern Mediterranean. Russia has cast vetoes on several UN resolutions against Syria – even before the so-called red line was crossed.

Paris Bataclan Attack

Rep. King said that there were certainly “refugees involved” in the Paris Bataclan attack, even though we know that all but one of the terrorists were identified as European nationals.  The outlier, who died near the Stade de France, could only be identified as Ahmad Al Mohammad —a name used in a falsified Syrian passport.  Authorities belive that he too was likely a EU citizen and was using the fake passport to travel to and from Syria.  Contrary to King’s claims, none of the terrorists were refugees.

European authorities made an error in not identifying the counterfeit passport Ahmad Al Mohammad carried. The extreme 24-month vetting of Syrian refugees under President Obama included biometrics, background checks, ground investigations and interviews. Mohammad’s October 3, 2015 entry to Europe via Greece did not have similar vetting.

Steve Bannon

When asked whether he supported Bannon’s appointment to the National Security Council, Rep. King said that, “Congress cannot interfere with the president as far as who is on the president’s staff.”

Anti-Semitism

When asked about President Trump’s use of the term “America First,” considering its connection to Nazi-friendly Americans in the 1930s, Rep. King said that Trump is “the most non anti-Semitic president we’ve ever had. That I can say. Long before it was fashionable.

ICE Raids

Rep. King: “The numbers I’ve seen roughly 90-95% of those who have been deported in these recent series all got criminal records.”  “Most of them have been aimed at criminals or have expanded it somewhat, people who may not have criminal charges against them, but who local police believe to be involved in gang activity.  From all the numbers I’ve seen, it’s been overwhelmingly people with criminal records.”

Muslim Ban

Rep. King said that the Executive Order was not a Muslim Ban. When Grechen Shirley reminded him that the “order specifically says they’re going to prioritize Christian refugees over Muslim refugees,” Rep. King responded “The logic in that would be, that if you know that a person is a Christian, you can assume they’re not an Islamic terrorist.  If a Jew is coming from Nazi Germany, you can assume they were not Nazis.”

Border Wall

Rep. King supports building the wall at any cost. When asked what programs we would have to cut to fund it, he said we will “Find a way to pay for it — same way you have to pay for anything.  To me, you have to pay for national security — national security has to be paid for.”

“If we have a growing economy, we have to cut where you have to.”

Medicaid

When asked why he says that he supports Medicaid expansion, when he voted for the Ryan budget that turns Medicaid into block grants, Rep. King explained, “That would go into the category of a protest vote.”

Mike Flynn vs. Karl Rove

Rep. King called Mike Flynn a “hero and a patriot” and said that whoever leaked the tapes should be prosecuted. Twelve years ago he said that Karl Rove deserved a medal and was trying to protect American lives when he exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame. Grechen Shirley asked, “What makes one a criminal and one a whistle-blower?”

Rep. King said, “Karl had nothing to do with Valerie Plame.” He added, “Karl Rove, I give him credit for standing up, but he did not, he didn’t leak it.”

Sexual Assault

When discussing President Trump boasting about sexual assault, Rep. King said, “Listen Bill Clinton is a friend of mine. It’s one thing to talk about, it’s another thing to do it.” Grechen Shirley responded that, “One thing is sex between two adults and the other is boasting about sexual assault!” Rep. King added, “Well were they consenting? It’s a whole different story between having a young girl in the White House. I don’t want to get into it…”

Rand Paul

Rep. King: “I was attacked by Rand Paul, the other day. He called me a big government Republican. Actually he and I hate each other anyway.”

 

Hundreds Will Protest Peter King Friday Over Penning of Controversial Muslim Ban

Hundreds Will Protest Peter King Friday Over Penning of Controversial Muslim Ban

Massapequa Park, NY – Hundreds of Long Island residents and local organizations will come together on Friday, February 3, 2017 for a demonstration outside the office of Congressman Peter King showing unity against President Donald Trump’s Executive Order banning refugees indefinitely from Syria and temporarily from 6 other Muslim majority countries.

Protestors will march in front of Peter King’s district office to protest his reported role in co-authoring the President’s Executive Order. Groups organizing the rally intend to underscore that Donald Trump’s order is unconstitutional, un-American, and illegal while aiming to unite individuals and organizations against Islamaphobia, xenophobia, and racism.

Protestors will march in solidarity with members of the Muslim community unfairly targeted because of their religious beliefs, and in support of refugees fleeing war-torn countries leaving everything they had with little or nothing on their backs risking their lives in search of a better future.

“Families are being separated and there are real consequences to this ban. I know of people who cannot visit their loved ones who are sick and elderly and this hurts us very badly,” said Habeeb Ahmed of Islamic Center of Long Island. “This country was made great by immigrants so let’s continue that.”

“We will march to uphold American values. America is a nation built by immigrants,” said Liuba Grechen Shirley of NY’s 2nd District Democrats in a press release. “We are all immigrants. Long Islanders call on President Trump to reverse his hateful, anti-refugee and anti-immigrant executive order, and District 2 constituents call on Rep. Peter King to denounce this executive order.”

“President Trump showed his true colors and issued radical, sweeping Executive Order that upend our immigration system and strike at the heart of our American values. These orders create a massive federal and state law enforcement deportation force to track down and deport immigrants and will rip apart American families, destabilize our communities and make us less safe” stated Lisa Tyson Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

WHO: New York’s 2nd District Democrats (NY02Dems), ATLI, The Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC), The Islamic Center of Long Island, Long Island Activists

WHEN: Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, 4-6 p.m.

WHERE: Congressman Peter King’s Office, 1003 Park Boulevard, Massapequa Park, NY 11762 {map link}

PUBLIC TRANSIT: Take the Long Island Rail Road from Penn Station, Jamaica, or points east on the Montauk/Babylon line to the Massapequa Park station.

Judge Rules FBI May Not Unilaterally Invent New FOIA Exemptions

Judge Rules FBI May Not Unilaterally Invent New FOIA Exemptions

Washington, DC — As reported in an exclusive report by Sam Thielman for The Guardian, a team of expert FOIA requestors and their attorneys has scored a major Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) victory against the FBI.