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D.C.’s Trump Hotel: Is clubhouse for Trump fans also a conflict of interest?

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The largest sums may have come from the president’s domestic political allies. An NBC News analysis of Federal Election Commission filings found that PACs and Republican campaigns have spent more than a million dollars at the hotel.

Religious groups and lobbyists for the petroleum and banking industries have held events there, as has the Turkish American Business Council, but it’s unclear how much each group spends.

That foreign governments have spent money at the hotel, whether it’s the Kuwait embassy’s party in the grand ballroom or Saudi Arabia footing the bill for hotel rooms for veterans recruited to lobby on its behalf, is well documented.

Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov poses for a photo in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel
Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov poses for a photo in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel.@eleonoramovs / Instagram

A review of social media found dignitaries from around the world photographed at the hotel, including from Jordan, Malaysia, and Lebanon, and even the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

After sending FOIA requests to more than 70 government agencies NBC News found that almost $56,000 taxpayer dollars have been spent at the hotel, more than $29,000 of which were spent by the Department of Defense. Almost $12,000 was spent by the Department of Agriculture, more than $9,000 by the Internal Revenue Service, and more than $1,700 was spent by the General Services Administration (GSA), which oversees the lease with the Trump Organization.

The lawsuits

Critics called on the GSA to revoke the lease but that never happened and the agency declined to be interviewed on the record for this story. Former GSA officials who asked not to be named told NBC News that the Trump Organization had won the bid the turn the Old Post Office into a hotel before Trump launched his campaign, and that he won the bid simply because it was the best deal for the government.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, has sued the GSA asking for the hotel records. That suit, filed in November 2017, is ongoing.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and 200 other Congressional Democrats filed suit against the president in June 2017 for allegedly violating the emoluments clause by receiving payments at the hotel from foreign governments.

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway poses with former White House press secretary Sean Spicer
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway poses with former White House press secretary Sean Spicer at his book signing for “The Briefing” at the Trump International Hotel in Washington on July 26, 2018.Astrid Riecken / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

President Trump ordered the Trump Organization to donate all relevant profits from his properties around the world to the U.S. Treasury. In February the Trump Organization gave the Treasury $151,470.

Blumenthal called the donation a “sham” and “pathetically inaccurate and inadequate.”

The Trump Organization gave NBC News a letter it had written to Sen. Blumenthal in April, explaining the calculation of the $151,470 and saying the amount of calculated profit from wholly-owned properties overstates the actual profits from foreign governments.

“Moreover, if the Trump Organization has been unable, after considerable effort, to identify other foreign government patronage revenue,” the letter said, “that revenue could not possibly serve to curry favor with or otherwise influence the President of the Administration.”

The Justice Department has filed a motion to dismiss Blumenthal’s suit and both parties are awaiting a judge’s decision. The Justice Department declined to comment.

Jul.27.201813:28

This July, a different federal judge supported plaintiffs who filed suit in March against the president for violating both the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses. Attorneys General Brian Frosh of Maryland and Karl Racine of the District of Columbia were granted standing in March and the hotel is the focus of the suit. They argue that patrons’ desire to curry favor with the president gives it unfair advantage over competing businesses in Washington and Maryland.

Racine calls the president “flagrant, brazen, and dismissive of over 225 years of the United States Constitution” for allowing his company to operate a hotel five blocks from the White House.

“We need to know if the president of the United States puts our interest first, doesn’t put his bottom line first,” said Frosh.

Article Source : https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/trump-s-d-c-hotel-clubhouse-his-fans-may-also-n898041?cid=public-rss_20180808