Cherry-blossom line sold t-shirts, shot glasses, and mugs showcasing the White House
Yesterday the Trump Store announced “last call” for its cherry-blossom collection, which sells merchandise prominently featuring the White House.
This update came via a Trump Store promotional email sent yesterday. Representatives of the Trump Store have not replied to an email asking if this collection was always planned to have a limited run and, if not, why it decided to stop selling these items. While the Trump Store does not appear to have previously said this line would be limited, the cherry-blossom theme does make it seem likely that always could have been the plan.
Shortly after the collection debuted, the Trump Store appeared to stop selling a bar of soap that depicted a sketch of the White House underneath “Trump Hotels.”
In addition to TrumpStore.com, the Trump Hotel D.C.’s gift shop, a half mile down the street from the White House, sold these items. At least two of the products depicting the White House were not made in the United States: a shot glass was made in China and a coffee mug was manufactured in Thailand.
1100 Pennsylvania broke the story that the president’s company was profiting off merchandise depicting the White House and other D.C. monuments on March 21.
Additionally, the Trump Org’s promotion of those items runs afoul of its promise not to reference the presidency, noted Steve Reilly of USA Today:
Trump visited his Los Angeles golf course with McCarthy, Murdoch, and Kushner
From “Trump visits his for-profit golf course during California trip for dinner with son, local officials” by David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell:
President Trump visited his for-profit golf course in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., on Friday night. He was expected to attend a dinner with his son Eric Trump, the city council and dozens of friends and supporters, according to one person who was told about the gathering…
Trump’s dinner—his first visit to the California course as president—comes at a pivotal moment for that club, which is one of the largest new development opportunities for the company since Trump took office and said he handed control of the company to his sons Eric and Donald Jr.
Also joining the president, per a photo: minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R–CA), media mogul Rupert Murdoch, senior advisor to the president Jared Kushner, and someone named Lili. Fox News’s chief communications officer and former White House communication director Hope Hicks also reportedly was there, per Fahrenthold. There’s video of Trump entering the dining area to a round of applause from his customers too (due to a formatting limitation, select the link to watch the video).
Since Trump was inaugurated, he’s now visited at least 12 of properties: D.C., Sterling, Bedminster, Turnberry, Los Angeles, Waikiki, Las Vegas, NYC (Trump Tower), Doral, Palm Beach golf, Mar-a-Lago, and Jupiter.
For McCarthy, it was his second trip to a Trump property in three days, having visited the Trump Hotel D.C. on Thursday.
And on Sunday, the president himself would make it two Trump properties in three days when he went golfing at Bedminster.
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Trump administration almost doubles guest-visa program that Trump Organization replies upon
From “Trump administration nearly doubles H-2B guest visa program, which brings many Mexican workers” by Heather Long for The Washington Post:
The Homeland Security and Labor departments plan to grant an additional 30,000 H-2B visas this summer on top of the 33,000 they had already planned to give out, the agencies confirmed.
The H-2B visa allows foreign workers to come to the United States legally and work for several months at companies such as landscapers, amusement parks or hotels. About 80 percent of these visas went to people from Mexico and Central America last year, government data shows…
Trump’s own hotels have used H-2B workers, and the president’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida applied for 78 of these visas last year.
In February 2018, the Trump Hotel D.C. gave a sweetheart rate—$245/night—to a group in town to lobby Congress for an increased in the H-2B visa cap (as reported by me for The Daily Beast).
CREW got sassy in joint-status report on its request for GSA’s documents about FBI HQ
In a joint-status report filed Friday in its lawsuit seeking documents from the General Services Administration about the FBI’s headquarters, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington conceded that while it had no proof GSA wasn’t entirely forthcoming, what the government turned over was underwhelming for the scope of the project.
At this point, CREW does not have that kind of “hard evidence” demonstrating that the production of 46 documents pertaining to the cancellation of a multi-million dollar procurement contract that was years in the works does not satisfy GSA’s obligation under the FOIA to conduct an adequate search
To recap: the FBI’s current headquarters is diagonally across Pennsylvania Avenue from the Trump Hotel D.C. Moving it would free up that lot for redevelopment, possibly as a luxury hotel that would compete with the president’s business (the Trump Hotel D.C. 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 when it reversed course and decided not to relocate FBI headquarters. GSA and FBI leadership have denied that allegation.
Trump names one-time Trump Hotel D.C. headliner acting DHS secretary
Yesterday President Trump tweeted that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner, will become the acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. McAleenan headlined the 10th annual Border Patrol Foundation recognition dinner in October 2018 at the Trump Hotel D.C.
Christians United for Israel conference has seven official hotels, so far only Trump’s has sold out
The Christians United for Israel conference in Washington, D.C. this July has lined up seven official hotels to offer discounted rates for attendees. Only the Trump Hotel D.C. has sold out so far ($295). Speakers at the conference include the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, whom was nominated by President Trump.
Golfer Gary Player reportedly played a round at Trump’s Palm Beach course.
Anthony Cruz, the communications director for Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), wants it known he’s often at the Trump Hotel D.C.
Radio host Larry O’Connor promoted his upcoming meal.
Other Trump Organization news
“White House chief of staff vows that Democrats will ‘never’ see Donald Trump's tax returns” by William Cummings for USA Today
“Trump lawyer calls on Treasury to reject Democrats’ demand for tax returns until Justice Dept. weighs in” by Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey for The Washington Post
“Any judge who votes or rules against this request does not belong on the federal courts. Such a judge would conclusively show that he or she cares more about partisan advantage than about transparency, honest government, and the rule of law.” – Daniel Shaviro, Wayne Perry professor of taxation at New York University Law School
“Recently posted versions of acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s daily schedules contain at least 260 differences from his original schedules, with the newest records showing meetings previously described as ‘external’ or ‘internal’ were actually with representatives of fossil fuel, timber, mining and other industries, according to a review by CQ Roll Call. Events left out of the original calendars but now disclosed or detailed further include a keynote address at the Trump International Hotel in Washington for the industry group Domestic Energy Producers Alliance.” By Jacob Holzman and Benjamin J. Hulac for Roll Call.
“‘Today’s not the day’: Why Trump Hotels changed course in the Mississippi Delta” by Jon Albano and Judy Maxwell for Lodging Leaders
“Mystery man in Trump’s Mar-a-Lago/China scandal prompts counterintelligence concerns” by David Corn, Daniel Schulman, and Dan Friedman for Mother Jones
“Mar-A-Lago staff apologizes for letting in guest they just assumed was high-powered lobbyist trying to buy influence” by The Onion
“President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Friday to reconnect with the working class:
…During the presidential campaign in 2016, USA Today’s Steve Reilly reviewed 60 lawsuits, 24 labor-law violations and 200 mechanic’s liens involving Trump companies, as well as conducting his own interviews with those involved.” By Timothy L. O'Brien for Bloomberg Opinion
House investigations, current status (latest changes, April 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 the bank is cooperating with her committee and that staffers from the panel have met with bank employees in New York. On March 11, the committee requested documents on Trump’s businesses from Capitol One; the bank “said it was already preserving documents but needs a subpoena in order to comply” per Politico.
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.
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 more than half of the targets had not replied by April 3, two weeks after the deadline. On that day, the committee authorized subpoenas for former White House aides Bannon, Ann Donaldson, Hope Hicks, Donald McGahn, and Reince Priebus, per Politico. 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. 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 has been postponed. Schiff hired a veteran prosecutor experienced with combating Russian organized crime to lead this investigation. The committee is also seeking to interview Trump inauguration organizer Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. On March 11, the committee requested documents on Trump’s businesses from Capitol One; the bank “said it was already preserving documents but needs a subpoena in order to comply” per Politico.
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. The committee also has requested 10 years of Trump’s financial records.On March 11, the committee requested documents on Trump’s businesses from Capitol One; the bank “said it was already preserving documents but needs a subpoena in order to comply” per Politico.
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—On April 3, chairman 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). Also, the subcommittee on Oversight 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
Is the Trump Organization selling merchandise that depicts the White House? (latest change, March 21, 2019)
One thing that (probably) has nothing to do with Trump’s businesses
“The IRS tried to take on the ultrawealthy. It didn’t go well. Ten years ago, the tax agency formed a special team to unravel the complex tax-lowering strategies of the nation’s wealthiest people. But with big money — and Congress — arrayed against the team, it never had a chance.” By Jesse Eisinger and Paul Kiel for ProPublica.
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