January 6, 2019

The Smithsonian Museums are closed. Trash is piling up at national parks. Heritage locations like Monticello and the Washington Monument are without docents.

But there is one place fully staffed for tourists to go and check out in our nation's capital.

Would it surprise you to find out it's a Trump-branded property? It probably shouldn't.

“We’re open!” one National Park Service ranger declared around lunchtime, pushing an elevator button for a lone visitor entering the site through a side entrance to ride to the top of the 315-foot-high, nearly 120-year-old clock tower.

The Trump administration appears to have gone out of its way to keep the attraction in the federally owned building that houses the Trump hotel open and staffed with National Park Service rangers, even as other federal agencies shut all but the most essential services.

Amanda Osborn, a spokeswoman for the General Services Administration, which owns the building and leases it to the Trump Organization, said in an email that the shutdown exemption for the comparatively little-known clock tower was “unrelated to the facility’s tenant” — the Trump business. The agency says the law that put it in charge of the site obligates it to keep it open, even as federal Washington closes around it.

Well, isn't that conveeeeeeeeeeeeeenient?

It also presents as yet another conflict of interest between Trump's public duty and private interests. So CREW--Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington--has filed a FOIA request to find out exactly the relationship between the Trump Org and the GSA for the tower and keeping it open.

CREW requested all documents explaining the reopening of the Old Post Office Tower, funding for its operation, and communications between the GSA and the Trump Organization, the White House and the National Park service about the decision to reopen the Tower.

The requested records will shed light on the true source of funding to reopen the facility, and the extent to which GSA’s decision to fund the tower’s reopening was directed by either President Trump or the Trump Organization. This decision conceivably advances the President’s personal economic interests at a time when over 800,000 of the federal workforce are not getting paid.

Read the FOIA request here.

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