T-Mobile execs barely patronized the Trump Hotel D.C.—until they needed gov’t approval
From “T-Mobile acknowledges its patronage of Trump’s Washington hotel increased sharply after announcement of merger with Sprint” by David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell for The Washington Post:
T-Mobile’s patronage of President Trump’s Washington hotel increased sharply after the announcement of its merger with its Sprint last April, with executives spending about $195,000 at the property since then, the company told congressional Democrats in a letter last month.
Before news of the megadeal between rival companies broke on April 29, 2018, the company said, only two top officials from T-Mobile had ever stayed at Trump’s hotel, with one overnight stay each in August 2017.
T-Mobile’s admission evokes the Republican National Committee: the RNC wasn’t a big spender at Trump properties until after Trump was elected, cementing his leadership of the GOP for at least four years.
Here’s T-Mobile CEO John Legere at the Trump Hotel D.C., the day after T-Mobile and Sprint announced their planned merger. (The picture is no longer available on Facebook, but your corespondent shared a screenshot of it back when it was posted on April 30, 2018.)
Judge rules GSA must turn over unredacted document related to canceled FBI HQ relocation
This morning district court judge Christopher Cooper ruled that the General Services Administration must turn over an unredacted document related to its cancelling plans to relocate the FBI’s headquarters. It’s the second time Cooper has recently demanded GSA be more forthcoming in its reply to a Freedom of Information Act request from government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The FBI’s current headquarters is diagonally across Pennsylvania Avenue from the Trump Hotel D.C., a six-minute walk (per Apple Maps). Moving the FBI’s main office would free up its current location for redevelopment, possibly as a luxury hotel that would compete with the president’s business. (The Trump Hotel D.C. often promotes itself as downtown D.C.’s only five-star hotel.) Last year Democrats on the House Oversight committee alleged the president intervened in the GSA’s decision-making process.
CREW had filed a FOIA request in June 2018 for documents regarding GSA reversing its earlier decision to move the FBI’s main office to suburban Maryland, instead opting to keep it put in downtown D.C. Three months later, CREW sued after GSA failed to reply. Today’s ruling was regarding “whether GSA permissibly redacted information—including appraised values of the Hoover Building, and the value of offers it received for the property—from a document titled ‘Findings and Determination’ (‘F&D’) that explained the agency’s decision to cancel the swap-relocation project.”
No surprise, CREW’s executive director, Noah Bookbinder was happy with today’s decision. Via email, he wrote
We are pleased with Judge Cooper’s decision today in our litigation to obtain documents related to the decision to abandon the years-long effort to build new FBI headquarters. We agree that the document in question is clearly not deliberative, and we look forward to receiving it. We will continue our efforts to pursue much-needed government transparency.
Bookbinder did not have an estimate for when CREW may receive the unredacted document.
In December, Cooper ordered GSA to “a more comprehensive” search in response to CREW’s FOIA request.
Wheeler makes it three Trump Cabinet members at Trump’s hotel for Kuwaiti celebration
The Kuwaiti embassy in the United States recently updated the web recap of its national day celebration at the Trump Hotel D.C. on Feb. 27. In addition to Secretaries Ben Carson and Wilbur Ross and counselor to the president Kellyane Conway, we now know that EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler was in attendance [H/T Government Executive].
The embassy also posted new photos of Carson and Ross posing, separately, with Kuwait Ambassador to the United States, Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.
Reminder: Monthly networking event for lobbyists is tonight in the president’s hotel’s lobby
Tonight, March’s Trump First Tuesday—a “business networking happy hour for government relations professionals and friends”—takes place in the U.S. president’s hotel’s lobby from 5:30-8 p.m. According to the event’s Facebook page, 107 people are attending, with another 552 people interested in the event.
Group advocating for women’s rights in the Middle East live-streaming tonight
Tonight at the Trump Hotel D.C, the Middle Eastern Women’s Coalition will be live streaming to Facebook from the Trump Hotel D.C. According to the group’s website, it “wants to reform the barbaric practices of child marriages, genital mutilations, honor killings and dress code restrictions by initiating a cultural and religious revolution throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.”
The Middle Eastern Women’s Coalition’s president, Rabia Kazan, is a Trump Hotel D.C. regular. The group announced in December 2018 it was endorsing President Trump’s re-election bid.
Want to donate your time to improving American-Turkish bilateral trade during an event at the U.S. president’s hotel? The volunteer coordinator at the American-Turkish Council has an opportunity for you. Good timing for the event too: just yesterday U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that President Trump had decided to end Turkey’s preferential trade status.
Department of Homeland Security employee Eric Duke met the FBI’s tour coordinator at the president’s hotel.
The hotel’s executive chef, Oliver Beckert, prepared his finest meats and cheeses and then some for a media visit.
Actress Mindy Robinson was at the president’s hotel post-CPAC.
Turning Point USA’s founder and president, Charlie Kirk, was back at the hotel over the weekend.
Travel agent Bruce Cairns is now certified in how to sell Trump Hotels.
Other Trump Organization news
“An attorney for Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, raised the possibility of a pardon with attorneys for the president and his company after federal agents raided Mr. Cohen’s properties in April.” By Rebecca Ballhaus, Joe Palazzolo, and Michael Rothfeld for The Wall Street Journal.
“In an exclusive interview, Michael Cohen’s lawyer, Michael Monico reveals for the first time a 2017 check signed by key Trump figures allegedly linked to criminal payments to Stormy Daniels.” Via The Beat with Ari on MSNBC.
President Trump and D.C. AG Karl Racine exchanged pleasantries, as shared by JM Rieger of The Washington Post (due to a formatting limitation, please select the link to watch the video):
House investigations, current status (latest changes, March 5, 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 that thee 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 is requesting 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. Barrack said he will cooperate.
UPDATED 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. During an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Feb. 10, Schiff said the committee will 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. Felix Sater, who was connected to the Trump Moscow project, is scheduled to testify in an open hearing on March 14, with Michael Cohen returning to testify before the panel on March 6. 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,” according to CBS News 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 both Passantino and Dillon. 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.
UPDATED 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 hotel calculates its profits, profit statements since the hotel opened in 2016, 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.
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, Feb. 22, 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 are scheduled for March 19. The AGs filed their brief opposing the president’s appeal on Feb. 6, stating, “The President is not entitled to an order requiring the district court to certify for interlocutory review its denial of his motion to dismiss. No court has ever issued such relief.” Trump’s DOJ attorneys replied on Feb. 21: “Plaintiffs fundamentally err, substantively and procedurally.”
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.”
196 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 Donald 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. The next steps, which don’t yet have a timeline, include setting a briefing schedule and both sides filing appellate briefs.
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!)
“The Making of the Fox News White House” by Jane Mayer for The New Yorker
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