The Trump-McConnell shutdown of the federal government has already shuttered most national offices, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed or forced to work without pay. In particular it has wreaked havoc on our national parks, with the reports of overflowing human waste, uncollected trash, damage to hiking trails and even three deaths reported as of yesterday, all due to the lack of policing and supervision. Iconic landmarks and museums on the National Mall have been shuttered or gone unstaffed, the American public denied access to them.
Yet a singular, rather obscure historical site has somehow managed to remain open and fully staffed: the clock tower in the Federal building that houses the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Smithsonian museums are closed. There are no federal staffers to answer tourists’ questions at the Lincoln Memorial. And across the United States, national parks are cluttered with trash. Yet despite the federal government shutdown, a historic clock tower at the Trump International Hotel remained open Friday for its handful of visitors, staffed by green-clad National Park Service rangers.
The little-known post office clock tower, though included in the National Register of Historic Places, does not receive a great number of visitors, even as it provides guests of the Trump hotel with stellar views of the city. According to the article from Talking Points Memo, linked above, Its ranger staff often outnumbers the tourists. Asked to explain why this particular site was permitted to remain staffed and open, while so many more were shut down, a spokeswoman for the General Services Administration contended that the “law” which put the GSA in charge of the site obligates it to remain open. The spokeswoman also said that the clock tower was “unrelated” to the building’s tenant, even though “Old Post Office” is displayed in gold letters prominently under the Hotel’s logo, as seen in the photograph above.
This “explanation” rings hollow to at least one watchdog organization:
A watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the GSA, seeking documents explaining why the tower was open, how it continues to be funded, and any communications between the agency and the Trump Organization, the president’s company. Trump gave up day-to-day management of the firm in 2017 but continues to receive earnings from its operations.
For those who might consider what appears to be yet another example of the Trump excepting himself and his family’s interests from the consequences of his actions, Josh Marshall of TPM points out that in the conceivable but unlikely event that there is a legitimate reason this particular site remains open, just the appearance of such favoritism would be enough for any Administration to correct the error. For this one, however, it appears to be simply another case of business as usual:
Assuming it is what it looks like, another example of the federal government being harnessed to the personal finances of the President, it will be just a more minor example of what we’ll learn far more about in the years to come. There is so little transparency in this administration, so much corruption that has become commonplace, that I don’t think we can really even imagine just how deep it all runs.
I have to differ with Josh Marshall on this point. We can most definitely imagine how deep it all runs.