In memoriam: Donald Trump’s Scammy Washington Hotel


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Some guests at Trump’s hotel checked in with different luggage. Trump’s founding committee, which raised funds through private donations, pushed such amounts of money into his hotel in 2017 that some planners expressed concern that the Trump organization was overcharging them. Lobbyists of all stripes bought rooms and dined in restaurants while seeking the favor of the man who effectively served as the landlord and tenant of the state-owned estate for four years. Some weren’t even subtle. While getting regulatory approval to merge with Sprint in 2018, T-Mobile executives often stayed at Trump’s hotel during their stay in town, with one making ten separate visits, according to The Washington Post. John Legere, the company’s CEO, reportedly stayed at least four times and was regularly spotted wearing T-Mobile branded clothing in his well-traveled lobby.

Perhaps the most controversial guests, however, were those who came from overseas. When the hotel opened in September 2016, it hired a “Diplomatic Sales Director” to handle the expected influx of diplomats and foreign officials who would stay at the hotel. Given DC’s small geographic size and tremendous global importance, the city’s major hotels are used to hosting a wide range of international guests. But Trump’s hotel had a habit of pulling millions of dollars in business from countries that also sought favor with the Trump administration itself: the governments of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, the Philippines and other foreign powers gave tens of thousands of dollars for accommodations out at the hotel during Trump’s presidency. The Trump Organization insisted on complying with the Constitution’s foreign payments clause by transferring all profits from foreign sources to the Treasury Department.

This voluntary compliance has not mitigated all of the ethical problems associated with owning a hotel in the country’s capital. Trump’s predecessors have typically taken steps to dispose of any company interests and avoid the appearance of corruption or inappropriateness. Jimmy Carter famously sold his peanut farm to meet expectations of good governance after Watergate. Although many of the early presidents owned large plantations, which were troubling in various ways, the practical limits of 19th century trade made them a poor vehicle for corrupt transactions. However, Trump refused to sell his stake in his family business or invest his assets in a blind trust as president, opening the door to unprecedented cash-for-influence systems.

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