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GSA was ready to pony up $576,000 for Old Post Office tours during shutdown
GSA would have spent $576,000 to keep Old Post Office tower tours running for a year if shutdown had continued
From “GSA planned to keep Trump Hotel site open a year, if needed” by Jennifer Yachnin and Kevin Bogardus for E&E News:
The General Services Administration inked a deal late last year to spend nearly $600,000 to continue operations at the Old Post Office Tower inside the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C.—enough to keep the site open for up to a year in the event of a continuous government shutdown—according to newly released documents.
Read the National Park Service’s entire FOIA response on its website.
To state what should be obvious: while the Old Post Office tower offers first-rate views, it’s a second-tier tourist spot (if that). So it’s curious that money wasn’t allocated to a site more people would want to visit.
To recap, here’s what we already knew about that decision-making process, from “A shutdown-era visit to Park Service ops at Trump’s D.C. hotel” by Charles S. Clark for Government Executive:
GSA closed the tower at the start of the shutdown.
Several days later, it realized that it did not need to do so because “balances within the Federal Buildings Fund remain available to operate federal facilities, as needed, until they are expended, notwithstanding a lapse in appropriations.”
Except—GSA’s statement also said, “In this process, it was discovered that the interagency agreement required by the 1983 law had expired earlier in the year. GSA and NPS subsequently renewed the interagency agreement, and NPS resumed operation of the tower as required by law.”
Trump Org marketing items depicting the White House breaks Trump Org’s promise to not do that
Yesterday’s 1100 Pennsylvania reported that the official online Trump Store is now selling merchandise depicting the White House. The Trump Org’s promotion of those items runs afoul of its promise not to reference the presidency, noted Steve Reilly of USA Today:
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House general counsel hires DOJ attorney who defended Trump in emoluments lawsuits
From “Senior DOJ appellate lawyer jumps to U.S. House general counsel’s office” by C. Ryan Barber for The National Law Journal:
The U.S. House of Representatives has hired a senior U.S. Justice Department appellate lawyer to work under general counsel Douglas Letter, boosting his team’s litigation prowess as the Democratic majority braces for court battles with the Trump administration…
In recent months, [Meghan] Barbero had served on Justice Department teams defending President Donald Trump against lawsuits claiming his continued ownership of his Washington hotel violates the Constitution’s anti-corruption clauses.
Report: Trump considering repeat featured speaker at Trump Hotel for spot on Federal Reserve board
From “Trump said to consider Stephen Moore for Federal Reserve Board” by Saleha Mohsin and Jennifer Jacobs for Bloomberg:
Stephen Moore, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a long-time supporter of Donald Trump, is being considered by the president for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Moore, 59, was the founder of the conservative Club for Growth and served on the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. He was a senior economist on the Congressional Joint Economic Committee and was an economic analyst for CNN.
At least three events at the Trump Hotel D.C. have featured Moore as a speaker, advertising his appearance in advance to draw people to the president’s hotel:
the 2018 Tea for Trump birthday extravaganza
Virginia Women for Trump’s 2020 campaign kickoff
FreedomWorks’s book-launch party for Moore and Arthur B. Laffer’s Trumponomics
Ed Rollins’s pro-Trump Great America PAC spent $772.88 at the Trump Hotel D.C. in February 2019.
GOP political strategist Karl Rove delivered the keynote address to the payday lenders assembled for the Community Financial Services Association of America’s annual conference at Trump Doral. It’s the second straight year this group has convened there.
Democratic candidate for president, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg reportedly attended a fundraiser held at the Trump International Hotel and Tower New York–Central Park. (A spokesperson for his campaign has not yet responded to an inquiry to verify the photo’s authenticity.) Buttigieg joins President Trump in the list of 2020 presidential candidates known to take part in a fundraiser at a Trump property.
Other Trump Organization news
“Some Democrats want more than just Trump’s personal tax returns: Trump's business returns could reveal much, much more” by Brian Faler for Politico.
John Mikhail, a professor and associate dean at Georgetown Law who co-authored an amicus brief on the history of the word “emoluments” in support of the D.C. and Maryland attorneys general’s suit, shared his analysis of Tuesday’s oral arguments:
“The kingdom and the Kushners: Jared went to Riyadh. So did his brother.” By David D. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times.
“Opinion: The good, the bad and the ugly in the fight over emoluments” by Jennifer Rubin for The Washington Post
The president and first lady are participating in a working visit this afternoon with Caribbean leaders at Mar-a-Lago, via the White House press pool.
Scottish TV shows how to have an Asian-style wedding in a ballroom the U.S. president owns and named after himself. Put differently, it sounds like the BBC is giving a Trump golf course free publicity.
“Nuevo empleo periodístico en Washington: corresponsal en el Hotel Trump” by Javier Romualdo Pérez for EFE News
House investigations, current status (latest changes, March 22, 2019)
Financial Services—Sent an 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 staffers from the panel have met with bank employees in New York.
Foreign Affairs—Chair Rep. 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.
UPDATED Judiciary—On March 4, the committee “served document requests to 81 agencies, entities, and individuals believed to have information relevant to the investigation,” according to a statement by the panel. Among the individuals the committee requested documents from are Trump Organization EVP Donald Trump Jr.; EVP Eric Trump; 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; former Trump attorney Michael Cohen; and Trump associate and inaugural chair, Tom Barrack. The committee received “tens of thousands” of documents by the March 18 deadline the letters set for responses, according to its chair, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D–NY). Among the respondents: Barrack, Steve Bannon, and the National Rifle Association. But current White House staffers, as well as some former ones have not replied yet. And GOP committee staffers said the panel only received eight replies by the deadline. Attorneys for the Trump Organization, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump 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. The committee interviewed Felix Sater on March 21.
Intelligence—On Feb. 6, chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D–CA) issued a statement that said his committee would investigate links or coordination between the Russian government/related 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. On Feb. 10, Schiff said the committee would investigate Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, a major lender to the Trump Organization. Earlier, on Jan. 24, the committee sent an inquiry to Deutsche Bank AG on its ties to Trump, according to the bank. On Feb. 28, an aide said the panel expects to interview Trump Organization 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. Felix Sater, who was connected to the Trump Moscow project, is scheduled to testify in an open hearing on March 27. Schiff hired a veteran prosecutor experienced with combating Russian organized crime to lead this investigation.
Oversight and Reform—Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings’s (D–MD) staff “has already 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 the committee requesting the president’s tax returns and 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 an earlier decision to relocate FBI headquarters, which is located across the street from the Trump Hotel D.C.
Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management—Transportation committee chair Rep. 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 the GSA about its reversal of an earlier decision to relocate the FBI headquarters, which is located across the street from the Trump Hotel D.C. NPR reported on March 15 that, “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 subcommittee on Oversight—The subcommittee held its first 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 Rep. John Lewis (D–GA). Experts in tax law testified.
Legal cases, current status (latest change, March 20, 2019)
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, and 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, also 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 voluntarily dismissing the claims against Trump in his “individual capacity to allow the claims against President Trump in his official capacity to move forward expeditiously.” (The AGs only brought suit against Trump in his individual capacity after the judge suggested they do so.) Trump’s personal attorneys, on Dec. 21, opposed the motion to dismiss at the district level, saying the appeals court now has jurisdiction and accusing 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.
CREW et. al’s emoluments lawsuit—In February 2018, CREW appealed its suit being dismissed for lack of standing to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments on that motion were held on Oct. 30.
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. A briefing schedule was set on March 5 with Cork’s brief due on April 15, the president’s brief due on May 15, and Cork’s reply to the president’s brief due on June 5.
Employees’ class-action suit alleging racial discrimination—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 at the hearing 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, Aug. 10, 2018)
❌Hotel: five violations on May 7, 2018; two were corrected on site
❌BLT Prime and Benjamin Bar: nine violations on Aug. 10, 2018
❌Sushi Nakazawa: two violations on Aug. 10, 2018
✔️Banquet kitchen: no violations on Aug. 10, 2018
❌Pastry kitchen: two violations on Aug. 10, 2018
✔️Gift shop: no violations on May 7, 2018
❌Employee kitchen and in-room dining: five violations on Aug. 10, 2018; two were corrected on site
One thing that has nothing to do with Trump’s businesses (I think, tough to tell sometimes!)
Facebook Live is delivering just as Mark Zuckerberg promised, notes Will Oremus of Slate:
Thanks for reading. If you like what you see, tell someone—and support this work by becoming a paying member ($5/month or $50/year). If you’ve been forwarded this newsletter, subscribe for yourself at zacheverson.substack.com. Questions? Read our FAQ/manifesto. Tips or feedback? Contact me, Zach Everson, securely via email at 1100Pennsylvania@protonmail.com or on Signal at 202.804.2744.