On the cusp of Bolsonaro’s visit, Trump Hotel D.C. taught Brazilian travel agents about its offerings
On Friday, the Trump Hotel D.C. provided a tour, breakfast, and gold-wrapped chocolate bars emblazoned with “Trump” to Brazilian travel agents so they could learn how to better sell the president’s hotel in their home country. Their visit comes just days before Washington, D.C. is bound to be in Brazil’s news, with its president, Jair Bolsonaro, calling on President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday.
The Trump Organization paid for the travel agents’ breakfast, according to Anne Madison, the chief strategy and communications officer of Brand USA, “the destination marketing organization for the United States,” which set up the excursion. She estimated the expense cost the hotel about $600.
No one from the U.S. government pressured Brand USA to include the Trump Hotel D.C. on the itinerary, Madison said, and there were no internal concerns about showcasing a hotel owned by the U.S. president. Similarly, Madison said their visit was not timed to coincide with Bolsonaro’s.
Regardless of whether or not this synergy was intended, the travel agents’ visit is part of a recent jump in Brazilian activity at Trump properties. (See the next segment in today’s 1100 Pennsylvania.)
Representatives from the Trump Hotel D.C. and the Trump Organization did not respond to an email asking about the timing and their motives for sponsoring these Brazilian travel agents’ breakfast.
Their visit was part of a familiarization tour (usually referred to as a “fam trip”). A common practice in the travel industry, they are junkets for agents, tour operators, or journalists to learn how to better sell or report on a destination. The cities and venues visited usually cover the expenses.
The Brazilians’ visit marks only the second time your correspondent has seen the Trump Hotel D.C. host travel-industry types on a Brand USA-organized trip.
While U.S. taxpayers do not fund Brand USA, it does receive “matching funds collected by the U.S. government from international visitors who visit the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.” No funds from that pool were spent at the Trump Hotel D.C., Madison said, but Brand USA will use the value of the donated airlines tickets that brought the agents here to claim matching funds from the U.S. government.
“The only funds from that pool used to pay for the Brazilian travel agents’ visit was for the airline tickets for the agents to come to the USA,” Madison wrote in an email. “Copa Airlines contributed the airline tickets to Brand USA, and we will submit that contribution for matching funds from the Travel Promotion Fund (which holds the fees paid by international visitors). NOTE: Brand USA must first receive contributions from non-federal sources before we can submit a request for an equivalent amount in matching funds from the federal government.”
The travel agents that visited the Trump Hotel D.C. are one of five groups of agents and tour operators from Brazil, totaling 65 people in all, visiting the United States from March 13–22. And it’s the sole lot with the nation’s capital on its itinerary. The only other D.C. hotel the agents saw was the Capitol Skyline, which is where they stayed.
Bolsonaro’s son, a congressman in Brazil, busted out a Make Brasil Great Again hat in hotel lobby
Three weeks after he told a party celebrating President Trump at Mar-a-Lago, “Build that wall! Brazilians are supporting you!,” Eduardo Bolsonaro—a member of Brazil’s Congress and the son of the country’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro—was back at a Trump property. Saturday night, he showed off his take on a Trump campaign slogan in the Trump Hotel D.C.
Nicolás Maduro shared Hands Off Venezuela march footage shot in front of Trump’s hotel
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro tweeted clips of Saturday’s Hands Off Venezuela march that were captured in front of the Trump Hotel D.C. (Due to a formatting limitation, select the link to watch the video.)
Trump World turns out for pro-Israel super PAC fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago
As 1100 Pennsylvania previewed last Wednesday, the American Pro–Israel PAC held its night of unity and peace to raise funds for itself Saturday at Mar-a-Lago. It’s not immediately clear if any of the of the $237,660 it raised last year helped Israel, but $38,871.77 did benefit Mar-a-Lago while another $45,000 helped out three of its board members.
We’ll have to wait for the super PAC’s next FEC filing to see how much the American Pro–Israel PAC paid the president’s private club to hold Saturday’s event (unless it responds to an earlier inquiry from 1100 Pennsylvania). But in the meantime, let’s see who attended:
El Salvador’s former ambassador to the United Nations Carlos García posed on the red carpet.
Charismatic Christian preacher Rodney Howard-Browne, who was at a Trump business for the second time in two weeks, having met with a group of D.C.-area pastors in the Trump Hotel D.C.’s lobby on March 7. Howard-Browne made an official visit to the White House during that stretch too, to share his thoughts on Israel. (In July 2017, Howard-Browne visited the White House, where he lay hands on President Trump to “avert a ‘planned attack’ that Luciferian forces were concocting to remove the president from office, which Howard-Browne said he had learned about from a member of Congress” (per Kyle Mantyla of Right Wing Watch). Howard-Browne also has said, “They sacrifice children at the highest levels in Hollywood.”)
Jonathan Cahn, whom Sam Kestenbaum wrote about this weekend for The New York Times, in an article titled, “#MAGA church: The doomsday prophet who says the Bible predicted Trump: A charismatic pastor in New Jersey (who also calls himself a rabbi) leads a church fixated on end times. Before the apocalypse, however, he’s fitting in a trip to Mar-a-Lago.”
Pro-Trump pastor Mark Burns told the crowd, “Listen, we’re in Donald Trump’s house! Y’all better make some noise for Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States!” (Due to a formatting limitation, select the link to watch the video.)
Karyn Turk, a former Mrs. Florida, attended. This weekend, Cliff Zhonggang Li, Cindy Yang’s boss at the Asian GOP, told me via email that Turk is now managing his media communications.
The CEO of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump and a member of Trump’s transition team, pastor Darrell Scott
Other noteworthy sightings
In addition to the head lobbyist for a pro-Armenian political organization, Thursday night at the Trump Hotel D.C. Vice President Mike Pence spoke with fellow regular Eric Bolling of Blaze TV (per Politico Playbook). And Pence posed with U.S. Marine Greg Aselbekian.
Lebanese TV interviewed Amin Salam, a managing director at the consultancy Ankura, “live from the Trump Hotel.”
Trump Organization EVP Eric Trump visited the money-losing Trump Turnberry golf course and saw first-hand how it was spending funds.
Trump Hotel D.C. regular, Harlan Hill, who’s a Fox News pundit and Trump campaign advisor, stood up for fellow Trump Hotel D.C. regular, T-Mobile CEO John Legere.
Other Trump Organization news
“Former spa owner and frequent Mar-a-Lago guest sparks concerns about ‘porous’ environment at president’s club” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Emily Rauhala, Lori Rozsa, and Josh Dawsey for The Washington Post
“Federal authorities raided Trump fundraiser’s office in money laundering probe” by Robert Faturechi and Justin Elliot for ProPublica
“Eric Trump dismisses ‘insane’ Turnberry debts rumour despite signing off on accounts showing £107m owed to creditors” by Martyn McLaughlin for The Scotsman
“Hoping for a fresh start, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand releases video, plans rally at Trump hotel [in New York]” by David Weigel for The Washington Post
“Police: Smoking dispute leads to fight in Trump Hotel [Chicago] lobby, felony charges for West Side man” by Rosemary Sobol and William Lee for The Chicago Tribune
“Did Trump keep his 19 promises to insulate himself from his business? Only he knows.” By Steve Reilly, Christal Hayes, and Bart Jansen for USA Today.
House investigations, current status (latest changes, March 15, 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 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.
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.
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. 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 14. 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; 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 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. 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 6, 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. 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!)
“Former boss sheds light on Cindy Yang’s work for Asian GOP, Communist Party ties” by me for Fast Company
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