All around Washington, D.C. and across the United States, federal properties run by the National Park Service are closed due to the partial government shutdown, with all but the most essential employees sent home.
But one conspicuous exception is the historic clock tower at the Trump International Hotel, which TPM reported was open for tourists on Friday.
“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.
But Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for GSA documents explaining why the clock tower remains open while other historic sites are closed.
The group also asked for documents outlining how the tower is being funded and any communication between GSA and the Trump Organization.
“At the very least, this smells funny.” Said Noah Bookbinder, the group’s executive director.
“We have not seen a satisfactory basis for why one park service property is opened when no others are,” Bookbinder said. “This raises tremendous questions about whether this property that intersects with the president’s business is getting special treatment.”