A government watchdog group is demanding to know why the federal government found the money to keep just one national park open and fully staffed — which just happened to be in the same building as Donald Trump’s international hotel in Washington, D.C.
The group Citizens for Ethics has requested documents related to the opening of the Old Post Office Tower in Washington, which came as all other national parks had to send staff members home as the shutdown started in late December. Just after the shutdown started, the General Services Administration, which leases the Old Post Office Tower to the Trump Organization to run Trump International Hotel, announced that it would fund the re-opening of the tower during the shutdown.
Citizens for Ethics now wants to know whether the decision to re-open the national park was at all related to the fact that Trump owns a hotel in the same building.
“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,” the agency noted in a statement. “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.”
Donald Trump had already been under fire for not divesting from his business interests, as other presidents had done. Critics say Trump is able to benefit financially from the hotel, which opens up the possibility that foreign interests could stay at the hotel or make purchases in order to gain his favor.
The hotel has also become a literal target for criticism, with a protester projecting the word “Sh**hole” on the side of the building in 2017 after Trump referred to African countries as “sh**hole” nations in a White House meeting.
Despite the shutdown, federal employees are staffing the National Park Service site in Trump Hotel. We’ve requested documents. https://t.co/vcifVrGkPs— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) January 12, 2019
Others have questioned why the only national park that was fully staffed happened to be the one that has a financial benefit to Donald Trump. Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. attacked Trump, noting the disarray of other national parks during the shutdown.
“The Trump admin is using your tax dollars to keep an @NPS site at his luxury hotel open while the rest of Americans are wading through garbage and locked gates. The corruption and disgrace of this govt are without bottom,” he tweeted.
There has been much attention paid to the state of other national parks. There are reports that visitors have left the parks strewn with garbage and human waste. In California, officials noted that some visitors have been vandalizing Joshua Tree National Park, driving through sensitive areas and spraying graffiti on rocks.