Indicted congressman’s campaign’s spent funds at the Trump Hotel D.C.; here’s what we know
In a motion filed Monday, prosecutors accused Rep. Duncan Hunter (R–CA) of spending campaign funds on “intimate personal activities unrelated to Hunter’s congressional campaign or duties as a member of Congress.”
From “Prosecutors: Rep. Duncan Hunter used campaign funds to pursue affairs” by Melanie Zanona, Kyle Cheney, and Josh Gerstein for Politico:
The Justice Department alleged that Hunter (R-CA) and his wife Margaret Hunter illegally diverted $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use, including to fund lavish vacations and their children’s school tuition. Monday’s court filings also spell out allegations that Hunter routinely used campaign funds to pay for Ubers, bar tabs, hotel rooms and other expenses to fund at least five extramarital relationships.
So now seems like a good time to review Hunter’s campaign expenditures at Trump properties, which offer ample opportunities to pay for bar tabs and hotel rooms. To borrow from Trump, Inc., this is an “open investigation” that lays out what we know—and what we don’t. If you’re privy to something not reported here, please get in touch: 1100Pennsylvania@protonmail.com or Signal/mobile/text 202.804.2744.
The six-term congressman’s campaign has reported four disbursements at the Trump Hotel D.C., totaling $1,259.55. All were incurred between December 2017 and May 2018—after the 2009–2016 period covered in the indictment. They are the campaign’s only reported outlays at a Trump business.
Prosecutors may have looked at these expenses and didn’t find anything improper, they may not have looked at them, or they still could be investigating them. The charges at the president’s D.C. hotel took place more than 18 months after the Federal Elections Commission alerted Hunter’s campaign it was reviewing some of its spending—meaning Hunter should have figured out that his future campaign expenses likely would be scrutinized too.
More info may exist about one expense: a $631.90 charge for food and beverage on Jan. 19, 2018. Two days prior to its date on FEC filings, Hunter’s former chief of staff posted a photo on Instagram that showed and tagged the congressman at the Trump Hotel D.C. That photo is no longer publicly available, but screenshots captured when it was show the date it was posted and tags (yep, Hunter’s uberjaeger).
FEC guidelines state that the disbursement date should be the “date the services were received.” But if Hunter’s campaign relied on when the charge posted to its credit-card account for that information, a two-day delay is reasonable. For example, when your correspondent visited the Trump Hotel D.C. on March 24, the $58.40 I spent on my license to linger (which was worth it) didn’t post to my credit card until March 26. So the $631.90 expense easily could refer to the evening shown on the Instagram post.
According to people with knowledge of that evening, Hunter was at the Trump Hotel D.C. with staffers who worked on his defense portfolio, other members of Congress, and people interested in the defense industry and (no surprise) vaping. That evening, Hunter may have ducked in to talk with a group meeting at the hotel too.
Three people appear with Hunter in the Jan. 17 photo, while a fourth is tagged. We don’t know if Hunter’s campaign covered purchases these people made and, if it did, if they were legit. We also don’t know if these people were at the Trump Hotel D.C. with Hunter or ran into him by chance and just commemorated the moment with a photo.
As for who’s in the picture:
The photo was posted to the account of Joe Kasper. He was Hunter’s chief of staff before accepting an appointment from President Trump to join the Department of Defense in October 2017. Kasper appears to be next to Hunter in the photo. According to the plea agreement Hunter’s wife, Margaret, signed, earlier this month, Hunter’s chief of staff during the time Kasper held that position had “questioned several obviously personal expenses the Hunters had made using campaign funds” (p. 11).
In the foreground is Kasper’s wife, Amanda, a life-science professional.
An SVP for sales at Onsite Dental, Chuck Campbell, is on the far right. Campbell is a constituent of Hunter’s, donated $2,500 to his campaign in 2017–2018, and and has one of the 255 accounts Hunter follows on Instagram.
Not shown but tagged is Hunter’s military legislative assistant at the time, Cassie Roper. She left his office in March 2019 to become a legislative affairs advisor at the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
Hunter’s office and campaign have not replied to inquiries asking if the Jan. 19, 2018 expense refers to the visit captured in the Jan. 17, 2018 Instagram post and, if so, how it was related to his campaign. Again, if you’re have information about this expense at the Trump Hotel D.C. or any of the campaign’s other three purchases there, please get in touch: 1100Pennsylvania@protonmail.com or Signal/mobile/text 202.804.2744.
And, while no campaigns funds were reported spent in the dates around this visit, let’s reminisce about Hunter crashing a lobbying group’s conference at the Trump Hotel D.C., when, in July 2017, the congressman appeared at Vape and the FDA 2.
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.
Sen. Deb Fisher (R–NE) celebrated her staffers.
The chief of staff at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s intelligence community equal employment opportunity and diversity office, Michael Kremlacek, kicked off his birthday week with dinner in the president’s hotel.
Other Trump Organization news
“Trump hotel in Washington charged Secret Service $200,000 in president's first year” by Kenzi Abou-Sabe and Safia Samee Ali for NBC News
“House backs ban on White House spending at Trump’s properties, sending message to president” by Mike DeBonis and Jonathan O'Connell for The Washington Post
“Scottish government-owned Prestwick Airport paid £9m by Trump administration” by Martyn McLaughlin for The Scotsman
House investigations, current status (latest change, June 27, 2019)
The committee sent a inquiry to Deutsche Bank AG on its ties to Trump, according to the bank on Jan. 24. On March 1, Chair Rep. Maxine Waters (D–CA) said the bank is cooperating with her committee and that her staffers met with bank employees. On March 11, the committee requested documents on Trump’s businesses from Capital One; the bank said it was preserving documents but needed a subpoena to comply per Politico. On April 15, that subpoena was issued. The committee reportedly has subpoenaed nine banks for information about the president’s finances. President Trump, Don Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and their businesses sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One on April 30 to prevent them from sharing records with Congress. Deutsche Bank reportedly has been willing to cooperate with lawmakers. On May 3, the Trumps filed for a preliminary injunction to block the subpoenas. But the judge declined to issue that injunction on May 22, saying that the financial institutions can comply with the lawmakers’ request. The Trumps’ appealed that ruling on May 24. The lawmakers and Trumps agreed to refrain from enforcing the subpoenas until after the appellate court issued its ruling. The court announced it will expedite the briefing process, which will end on July 18, and hold a hearing held shortly thereafter.
Chair Elliot Engel (D–NY) “plans to investigate whether President Donald Trump’s businesses are driving foreign policy decisions, including whether Trump violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution in the process” per CNN on Jan. 23.
On March 4, the committee “served document requests to 81 agencies, entities, and individuals believed to have information relevant to the investigation. Among the individuals the committee requested documents from are Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, Trump Org EVP and COO Michael Calamari, CFO Alan Weisselberg, EVP and chief legal officer Alan Garten, Trump tax attorney Sherri Dillon, longtime Trump executive assistant Rhona Graff, former Trump advisor Felix Sater (whom it interviewed on March 21), former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, and Trump associate and inaugural chair Tom Barrack. The committee received “tens of thousands” of documents by its March 18 deadline, according to its chair, Jerry Nadler (D–NY). Among the respondents: Barrack, Steve Bannon, and the National Rifle Association. But more than half of the targets still had not replied by April 3. On that day, the committee authorized subpoenas for former White House aides Bannon, Ann Donaldson, Hope Hicks, Donald McGahn, and Reince Priebus, per Politico. And on May 21, the committee did in fact subpoena Hicks and Donaldson. Attorneys for the Trump Organization, Don Jr., and Eric did not respond to Politico’s inquires if their clients planned to reply. The committee is considering making additional document requests, including to Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
On Feb. 6, Chair Adam Schiff (D–CA) said his committee would investigate links or coordination between the Russian government/foreign actors and individuals associated with Trump’s businesses, as well as if foreign actors sought to compromise or hold leverage over Trump’s businesses. Schiff hired a prosecutor experienced in combating Russian organized crime to lead the investigation.
On Feb. 10, Schiff said the committee would investigate Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, a major lender to the Trump Organization. On Jan. 24, the committee sent an inquiry to Deutsche Bank AG on its ties to Trump. On Feb. 28, an aide said the panel expects to interview Trump Org. CFO Allen Weisselberg.
During testimony on March 6, Michael Cohen turned over documents that allegedly show how Trump’s then-personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, edited Cohen’s statement regarding Trump Tower Moscow. Cohen later read this revised statement before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. In closed-door testimony in March, Cohen claimed the president submitted a false insurance claim regarding a fresco in Trump Tower. Felix Sater, who was connected to the Trump Moscow project, was scheduled to testify in an open hearing on March 27, but that was postponed. Then he was scheduled to talk to the committee’s investigators on June 21, but did not show up. Georgian-American businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze, however, did discuss his Trump Tower Moscow proposal with the committee on June 26.
The committee seeks to interview inauguration organizer Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.
On March 11, the committee requested documents on Trump’s businesses from Capital One; the bank “said it was already preserving documents but needs a subpoena in order to comply” per Politico. On April 15, that subpoena was issued. All told, the committee reportedly has subpoenaed nine banks for information about President Trump’s finances. President Trump, Don. Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and their businesses sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One on April 30, however, to prevent them from sharing financial records with Congress. Schiff said Deutsche Bank has been willing to cooperate with lawmakers. On May 3, the Trumps filed for a preliminary injunction to block the subpoenas. But judge Edgardo Ramos declined to issue that injunction on May 22, saying that the financial institutions can comply with the lawmakers’ request. The Trumps’ appealed that ruling on May 24. The lawmakers and Trumps agreed to refrain from enforcing the subpoenas until after the appellate court issues its ruling. The court announced it will expedite the briefing process, which will end on July 18, and hold a hearing held shortly thereafter.
Oversight and Reform
Chair Elijah Cummings’s (D–MD) staff “sent out 51 letters to government officials, the White House, and the Trump Organization asking for documents related to investigations that the committee may launch,” on Jan. 13. In a Feb. 15 letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Cummings said the committee received documents showing White House attorney Stefan Passantino and long-time Trump personal attorney Sheri Dillon provided “false information” to the Office of Government Ethics regarding Michael Cohen’s “hush-money payments.” As a result, Cummings wants to depose Passantino and Dillon; the White House, however, rejected Cummings’ request to interview Passantino. And on Feb. 27, Cohen testified to the committee about those payments and other Trump Organization business practices, which could lead to allegations of possible insurance fraud. The next day, House Democrats signaled they would seek testimony from Trump Organization officials whom Cohen alleged were implicated, including Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and CFO Allen Weisselberg.
On March 6, Cummings requested information from the GSA about its reversal of a decision to relocate FBI headquarters, which is across the street from the Trump Hotel D.C. And on April 12 Cummings wrote to the GSA again, this time requesting all monthly reports from the Trump Hotel D.C., information about liens on the hotel, correspondence between the Trump Org and GSA, and legal opinions regarding the Trump Org’s compliance with the lease. Cummings gave an April 26 deadline; staffers for the committee and Cummings have not replied to inquiries asking if GSA replied.
The committee also has requested 10 years of Trump’s financial records. On March 11, the committee requested documents on Trump’s businesses from Capital One; the bank “said it was already preserving documents but needs a subpoena in order to comply” per Politico. On April 12, Cummings notified committee members that he plans to subpoena Mazars USA, Trump’s accounting firm, for his financial statements. President Trump, the Trump Organization, and the Trump Hotel D.C. sued Cummings and Mazars USA on April 22 in an attempt to prevent the release of Trump’s financial records. Cummings postponed the subpoenas’ deadline while the courts address the president’s suit. On May 20, U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta denied the president’s motion. Trump appealed the next day and two days after that, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ judges agreed to fast track the case, with oral arguments scheduled for July 12. But without further relief, Mazars could start turning over documents as soon as next week. In a filing on June 10, Trump’s attorneys argued that the committee’s subpoena was invalid because “it is an effort to investigate alleged legal violations—power that is vested in the executive, not Congress.”
Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
Transportation committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D–OR) and subcommittee Chair Dina Titus (D–NV) sent a letter to GSA administrator Emily Murphy on Jan. 22 asking for all communication between the GSA and members of the Trump family dating back to 2015, an explanation of how the D.C. hotel calculates its profits, profit statements since the hotel opened, any guidance from the White House regarding the lease, and whether or not Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are recused from participating in decisions regarding the property. GSA has “sent a partial response and the subcommittee is reviewing it,” according to a senior House staffer familiar with the situation. When hearings begin, it is likely that Murphy will be the first person called to testify, according to a person familiar with the subcommittee’s plans. Titus is hiring additional staffers to handle the investigation.
On March 6, Titus requested information from GSA about its reversal of a decision to relocate FBI headquarters, which is across the street from the Trump Hotel D.C. NPR reported “Democrats on the committee want to know, among other things, whether there was any political pressure exerted on the GSA by the Trump White House, presidential campaign or transition team. They also want to know how the Trump Hotel calculates its profits, segregates incoming money from foreign governments, and what the Trump Organization owes the GSA on a monthly or annual basis.’”
Ways and Means
On April 3, Chair Richard Neal (D–MA) requested six years of Trump’s personal tax returns, as well as the returns for eight of his businesses (including that of the trust that holds the president’s ownership stake in the D.C. hotel). After the IRS missed Neal’s deadline and then an extension, Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin said he’d make a decision whether or not to release the returns by May 6. He declined to do so. On May 10, the committee subpoenaed Mnuchin and IRS commissioner Charles Rettig, giving them a May 17 deadline to turn over Trump’s tax returns. Mnuchin again declined to comply. Neal suspected he’d know his next move by May 24, but earlier he had indicated he’ll take the issue to the federal courts.
The Oversight subcommittee held a hearing on “legislative proposals and tax law related to presidential and vice-presidential tax returns” on Feb. 7. “We will ask the question: Does the public have a need to know that a person seeking the highest office in our country obeys tax law?” said Chair John Lewis (D–GA). Tax law experts testified.
Legal cases, current status (latest change, June 26, 2019)
D.C. and MD attorneys general’s emoluments lawsuit
Official capacity—On Dec. 20, 2018, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it would hear the president’s appeal of district court rulings that allowed the case to proceed to discovery. The appellate court halted discovery in the case. Discovery had started Dec. 3 and was scheduled to run through Aug. 2, 2019, with the AGs having subpoenaed the Trump Organization, including its Scottish golf courses; the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, and Treasury and the GSA; and the state of Maine. Oral arguments on the appeal occurred on March 19; by all accounts the three-judge panel (all Republican appointees, including one who was a selection of President Trump’s) were skeptical of the AGs’ case. D.C. AG Karl Racine pledged to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
Individual capacity—On Dec. 14, Trump’s personal attorneys appealed the denial of their motion to dismiss the case to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Dec. 19, the AGs replied to Trump’s motion for a stay pending that appeal by dismissing the claims against him in his “individual capacity to allow the claims against President Trump in his official capacity to move forward expeditiously.” (The AGs brought suit against Trump in his individual capacity after the judge suggested they do so.) Trump’s attorneys, on Dec. 21, opposed the motion to dismiss at the district level, saying the appeals court now has jurisdiction and accused the AGs of “gamesmanship.”
Democratic senators and representatives’ emoluments lawsuit
On Sept. 28, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled that the legislators have standing to sue. Trump’s Justice Department attorneys filed an interlocutory appeal on Oct. 22. On Jan. 30, 2019, the plaintiffs’ filed a notice of supplemental authority, notifying the court of the GSA inspector general’s report that criticized GSA for failing to consider if the Trump Hotel D.C.’s lease was in compliance with the Constitution after Trump became president. Two days later, the president’s attorneys argued that the IG’s conclusion was not inconsistent with Trump’s argument, but that the judge should ignore that report anyway because the IG has no expertise in interpreting or applying the foreign emoluments clause. On April 30, Sullivan denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the suit. While the president’s attorneys have a supplemental brief due on May 28, on May 14 they filed a motion to stay the proceedings while they appeal Sullivan’s decision. A week later, the lawmakers opposed that motion. On June 25, Sullivan denied Trump’s motion to stay the proceedings pending appeal, paving the way for discovery to begin June 28 and last through Sept. 27.
CREW et. al’s emoluments lawsuit
Cork’s unfair competition lawsuit
Judge Richard J. Leon dismissed the case on Nov. 26, 2018, writing “Cork has failed to state a claim for unfair competition under D.C. law.” On Dec. 10, Cork’s attorneys filed a notice of appeal and on Jan. 10, 2019 they submitted a statement of issues to be raised. Cork filed its first appellant brief on May 15, arguing “the District Court failed to recognize the evolving nature of the common law of unfair competition in the District of Columbia and erroneously treated the prior cases as if they were a series of statutes that Appellant had to satisfy to state a claim.” Attorneys for the president and his hotel requested a 31-day extension for filing their brief, with Cork’s consent, which the court granted on May 28. Trump’s brief is now due on July 15.
Employees’ class-action suit alleging racial discrimination
D.C. superior court (direct link not available, search for case 2017 CA 006517 B)
Two of the three plaintiffs did not appear at a status hearing on Jan. 25, 2019; their cases were moved to arbitration. Via email, their attorney, A.J. Dhali, said his clients did not appear because their case already had been moved to arbitration last year. The next status hearing is scheduled for Oct. 4.
Health inspections, current status (latest change, June 14, 2019)
❌BLT Prime and Benjamin Bar—nine violations on Aug. 10, 2018
❌Sushi Nakazawa—two violations on Aug. 10, 2018
✔️Banquet kitchen—no violations on May 16, 2019
✔️Pastry kitchen—one violations on May 16, 2019; it was corrected on site
✔️In-room dining—one violation on May 16, 2019; it was corrected on site
❌Northwest kitchen—three violations on May 16, 2019; two corrected on site
✔️Gift shop—no violations on May 7, 2018
✔️Employee cafeteria—no violations on May 16, 2019
Is the Trump Store selling swag that depicts the White House? (latest change, March 21, 2019)
One thing that (probably) has nothing to do with Trump’s businesses
“The father and daughter who drowned at the border were desperate for a better life, family says” by Reis Thebault, Luis Velarde, and Abigail Hauslohner for The Washington Post
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