By Jan Wolfe and Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump Organization on Friday said it was exploring a sale of the rights to its Washington hotel, a property at the center of litigation over allegations that President Donald Trump violated anti-corruption provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
The possible license sale, being marketed by real estate company JLL, stems in part from criticisms from ethics watchdogs and lawmakers regarding the family’s profits from the hotel, which is in a historic building on Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of the capital.
“People are objecting to us making so much money on the hotel, and therefore we may be willing to sell,” Eric Trump, Trump’s son and an executive vice president at the company, said in a statement.
Three lawsuits, one brought by lawmakers, one by a watchdog group and the other by state attorneys general, said Trump’s ownership violated the anti-corruption “emoluments” provisions of the U.S. Constitution that ban the president from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments without congressional consent. Trump is contesting the lawsuits.
Trump’s failure to disentangle himself from his family business exposes him to inducements by officials and others seeking to curry favor, the lawsuits said.
The site, a few blocks away from the White House, has attracted protesters and disputes over its restaurants. The hotel has become a known gathering spot for Trump associates, Republicans and others in the president’s orbit since he took office in January 2017.
The Trumps are seeking more than $500 million for the rights, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said that if a sale were completed, Trump’s legal team could seek dismissal of the emoluments litigation on mootness grounds. But Tobias said a judge might reject such arguments.
The Washington hotel has been a moneymaker for Trump. In a financial disclosure form from May, he reported $40.8 million in revenue from the property in 2018.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Dan Grebler and Grant McCool)