Area hotelier loses government side hustle

What a new landlord might mean for the Trump Hotel D.C.

On Saturday morning, multiple national media outlets declared the Trump Hotel D.C.’s principal owner the loser of the U.S. 2020 presidential election. President Donald J. Trump was golfing at his Sterling, Virginia course at the time the race was called.

Some thoughts on what the change in administration may mean for 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue—

Hotel’s lease will no longer be managed by a Trump political appointee

The Trump Hotel D.C. is a tenant in the U.S. government-owned Old Post Office building. The General Services Administration manages the lease, which includes profit sharing with the government if certain revenue thresholds are met. But GSA officials have testified that the agency has not audited the financial info the hotel is required to furnish. (Meaning that U.S. taxpayers are trusting the Trump Org to pay what it should.) And the Trump appointee heading GSA, Emily Murphy, repeatedly has refused to provide a House committee with oversight the hotel’s financial information—even defying a Congressional subpoena.

A Biden administration-run GSA seems more likely to cooperate on that front with lawmakers. Additionally, there could be an independent audit of the hotel’s books from the past four years, Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University’s law school who specializes in government ethics, told your correspondent for a Mother Jones article earlier this year.

Also, last year the Trump Organization began accepting bids for the lease to its D.C. hotel. The sale was put on hold this spring because of the coronavirus. But then this summer the president said the lease was off the market altogether. Now, who knows! But if the Trump Org does tries to offload its lease, it’ll be a Biden-led GSA, rather than a Trump-headed, one reviewing the sale.

FBI headquarters redevelopment could go forward, possibly leading to new competition for the hotel

Longstanding plans to relocate FBI headquarters from downtown D.C. to the suburbs were scuppered under the Trump administration; such a move could have allowed its current lot—diagonally across Pennsylvania Avenue from the Trump Hotel—to be redeveloped as a luxury hotel. (Murphy declined to provide lawmakers with information on the president’s involvement in that decision.)

As the Obama-Biden administration was keen on relocating FBI HQ, it seems probable a Biden-Harris administration will feel likewise.

The U.S. government may be more forthcoming about its spending at Trump properties

Many government agencies have been noncompliant with Freedom of Information Act requests regarding government spending at Trump properties. That behavior seems likely to change.

Hotel no longer has to face accusations it’s profiting off the presidency

Despite an abundance of evidence that many Trump Hotel D.C. customers are seeking favors from the hotel’s owner’s government, the business’s management—along with some notable patrons—have argued that the hotel is simply competing on the market.

“It’s just like any other hotel,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R–CA) said in September 2019, about a business where his campaign and committees have spent more than $245,000.

With the hotel owner no longer president, McCarthy’s theory can be put to the test (although it’s possible Trump will emerge as something of a GOP kingmaker). Campaign finance and nonprofit tax filings will provide a look at how many candidates, political action committees, and special interest groups are booking the Trump Hotel D.C. because of its location, prices, and service.

Count Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which has oversight of the lease, as a skeptic. “If he loses, that hotel goes in the tank,” DeFazio said in January. “They’ll be broke and we’ll be repossessing it.

Other affected areas

  • Trump has almost $479 million in loans coming due in the next four years (as Russ Choma reported for Mother Jones). Now when deciding whether to call in or renegotiate the loans, Trump’s creditors no longer have to consider that they’re dealing with the leader of the free world.

  • The New York attorney general’s investigation into the Trump Organization for improperly inflating the value of its holdings is going forward with the subject no longer the president.

  • The Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into Trump’s finances is going forward with the subject no longer the president.

  • Prior to Trump’s inauguration, Trump Org attorney Sherri Dillon pledged, “No new foreign deals will be made whatsoever during the duration of President Trump’s presidency.” While the company hasn’t completely stuck to its promise, now there’s nothing holding it back.

  • Visual protests on the hotel’s facade seem less likely.


Armed man outside Philly vote-counting facility had previously visited Trump Hotel D.C. to raise awareness about veterans’ suicides

On Thursday, Philadelphia police arrested Joshua Macias and Antonio Lamotta after the two Virginia men were found heavily armed outside a facility where mail-in ballots were being tallied. They were later charged with illegal possession of firearms.

Macias had visited the president’s D.C. hotel in September 2018, posing there with Corey Lewandowski, as your correspondent reported at the time. Macias told 1100 Pennsylvania he had been at the hotel to raise awareness about veterans suicides.

Macias also had appeared at Trump Tower in 2016 reported Alex Mallin of ABC.


President made his 76th visit to a Trump property since the pandemic’s onset

Trump golfed at his Sterling, Virginia course on both Saturday and Sunday. Per 1100 Pennsylvania’s tally, the president now has called on Trump properties 76 times since Chinese officials disclosed an outbreak of flu-like symptoms.

COVID-19 has killed 237,835 people in the United States, per Johns Hopkins.

At Sterling, the president appeared to swing by a wedding. In the early days of the Trump presidency, his Bedminster, New Jersey had marketed just such an appearance, reported Laura M. Holson for the New York Times in 2017.


Campaign expenditures

The campaign for Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) spent $126 on Oct. 13 for meals at the head of the executive branch’s D.C. hotel. Gaetz’s campaign now has reported spending a total of $3,103.87 at the Trump Hotel D.C.


Notable sightings

A glimpse of the foreign officials, government employees, politicians, lobbyists, and the like who patronize or appear at Trump businesses. Most people shown here have reasons to want to influence the Trump administration, rely on its good graces for their livelihoods, or should be providing oversight. Additionally, high-profile guests serve as draws for paying customers.

Consultant and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) shared a photo of himself at the U.S. president’s D.C. hotel with a former executive assistant to Ronald Reagan, Peggy Grande; Brexit UK party leader Nigel Farage; and one of Bryant’s business partners, Joey Songy.

U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Calista Gingrich and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) were blessed with a beautiful day at her boss’s Virginia club.


Other Trump Organization news

  • “Use of helipad at Mar-a-Lago ends with Trump's term on Jan. 20” by William Kelly for The Palm Beach Daily News

  • “During a December donor event at Trump Hotel in Washington, Guilfoyle offered to give a lap dance to whoever raised the most money, according to two people who were present and another person who was familiar with the episode” reported Natasha Korecki, Alex Isenstadt, Anita Kumar, Gabby Orr, Christopher Cadelago, and Marc Caputo for Politico


Reference section

Links to rundowns of developments in the House’s investigations and lawsuits, reference sheets for some of 1100 Pennsylvania’s previous reporting, and articles that provide the background on why all of this matters. The date published or last updated is in parentheses.

Trackers

Notable hotel customers

Summaries

  • Stay to play: Inside the sordid history of Trump’s D.C. hotel—And why the president’s prized property could be headed for a reckoning” by your correspondent for Mother Jones (September 2020)

  • Power tripping in the swamp: How Trump’s D.C. hotel swallowed Washington
    The MAGA social scene is a movable feast, but its dark heart resides within the Old Post Office Building, where the Trump Org operates under a mercenary charter” by your correspondent for Vanity Fair (October 2019)

  • Inside the world’s most controversial hotel: The hotel that was expected to take its place among the crown jewels of D.C.’s travel scene has become a magnet for protestors, a West Wing Annex, and—possibly—the center of a constitutional crisis.” by your correspondent for Condé Nast Traveler (May 2018)

Upcoming key dates

  • Sept. 23, 2019—House Judiciary Committee hearing “Presidential corruption: Emoluments and profiting off the presidency” (postponed, not yet rescheduled)

  • Dec. 9, 2020—Deadline for exchanging witness lists in the D.C. attorney general’s lawsuit alleging improperly spent nonprofit funds by the Trump Hotel D.C. and Trump’s inaugural committee.


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