Both the Government Accountability Office and the Justice Department’s inspector general have received complaints from other companies after CertiPath, a company with which President Trump’s brother has financial ties, was awarded a $33 million government contract. That contract is with the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS). CertiPath is owned by two companies, one of which, SHiRT LLC, represents an investment partnership between Robert Trump, President Trump’s brother, and the chief executive of CertiPath, Shawn R. Hughes. This connection, along with the complaints, was revealed today in a report from The Washington Post. One of the complaints read in part, according to The Hill, “The circumstances of this contract award, and what appear to be CertiPath’s efforts to obscure Mr. Robert Trump’s financial interest in the company even as it trades on the Trump name, present the appearance of preferential treatment for those who are close to the President.”
This connection to President Trump’s brother was not, according to the complaints, revealed by CertiPath to the other bidders, at least some of which believe favoritism toward Trump’s family members may have been involved in CertiPath being awarded the contract. They also expressed the clear belief that President Trump’s relatives should not be gaining financially from government contracts. One of the rival bidders, NMR Consulting, complained to the Government Accountability Office, and an anonymous complaint was also made to the Justice Department’s inspector general. According to The Hill:
A Virginia-based company with ties to President Trump’s brother has reportedly been awarded a $33 million government contract, according to The Washington Post. The firm CertiPath received the multi-million-dollar contract with the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) earlier this year, The Post reported. CertiPath is partially owned by a company tied to the president’s brother Robert Trump, according to the newspaper. The Post reported Saturday that a rival bidder anonymously filed a complaint to the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office following the award, accusing CertiPath of failing to disclose that “one of the President’s closest living relatives stood to benefit financially from the transaction.” …The Post also reported that a company called NMR Consulting complained about the matter to the Government Accountability Office in July. NMR’s bid protest resulted in a “stop work order” on the contract, USMS spokesman Drew Wade told the newspaper. “There’s no money being spent with CertiPath until this issue is resolved,” he said. The spokesman also said that USMS was not aware of the accusation that a relative of the president had a financial stake in the company.
As described above, spending on the $33 million contract is suspended while the complaints are being examined. The U.S. Marshals Service claims not to have known that Robert Trump had a financial stake in CertiPath; if that claim is accurate, it would mean that CertiPath made a point not to reveal that a Trump family member had a financial stake in their company, when it certainly should have revealed that information. Robert Trump could also have made it clear that any company with which he has financial ties should not be bidding for government contracts, given that his brother is president, but that appears not to have happened either. There is an obvious conflict of interest in any company connected to President Trump’s family getting awarded government contracts; were it not for the complaints made by the other bidders after they determined Robert Trump’s financial ties to CertiPath, however, the $33 million may simply have been handed to CertiPath. That is disconcerting, indicating that more care needs to be taken to be sure that Trump and his family members are not enriched by government contracts.