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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: trump international hotel

Washington Bids Farewell To Trump Hotel That Offered Luxury...And Access

Washington (AFP) - Occupying an entire city block a short walk from the White House, the Trump International Hotel is a splashy neolassical palace steeped in more than a century of Washington lore.

The towering atrium features a huge skylight that dapples the lobby bar in winter sun as the nation's power brokers savor $140 glasses of wine served in Hungarian crystal, or $10,000 tumblers of vintage Macallan scotch.

After a drink, guests with $385 to spare can rejuvenate with a "hydrafacial" skin treatment downstairs before reclining on designer linens in one of the 263 stately, wood-paneled rooms.

"It's a beautiful place," one-time White House spokesman Sean Spicer gushed about the hotel, which is set to become a Waldorf Astoria in the New Year, ending six years of ownership by Donald Trump.

"It's somewhere that he's very proud of, and I think it's symbolic of the kind of government that he's going to run."

Spicer turned out to be correct.

Trump promised to "drain the swamp" of corruption in Washington, but instead opened his very own quagmire on Pennsylvania Avenue -- inviting a dizzying array of conflicts of interest.

During Trump's four years in office, the 19th-century Romanesque Revival-style hotel became a magnet for top donors, corporate lobbyists and foreign governments seeking to spend big in the hope of winning influence.

"The law is totally on my side, meaning the president can't have a conflict of interest," Trump said in 2016 when asked about mixing his day job with promoting his sprawling business empire.

'Influence Peddling'

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) lobby group tracked 150 officials from 77 foreign governments that visited a Trump property during his presidency.

According to a congressional probe, the Washington hotel took in $3.7 million from countries including China, Kuwait, Turkey, India, Brazil and Romania.

The Philippines told a television station back home its decision to use the hotel for a 2018 Independence Day celebration was "a statement that we have a good relationship with this president."

The clientele raised concerns about possible violations of anti-corruption provisions written by the nation's founders restricting the acceptance of gifts to office-holders from foreigners.

"Donald Trump should never have been allowed to keep his DC hotel as president," CREW's head Noah Bookbinder said.

"He should have divested himself of it along with the rest of his businesses before taking office. Instead, he rode out four years of using it for influence peddling and constitutional violations."

Altogether, domestic political groups spent $3 million at the hotel across some 40 political events during the Trump era.

Special interest groups, such as the American Petroleum Institute, often took part in White House meetings alongside a hotel event, and many secured favorable policy outcomes, according to CREW.

AFP reached out to the Trump Organization, but there was no response.

The former president handed control of his businesses to his two adult sons and a trustee when he entered the White House, promising not to get involved while in reality promoting the venues at every opportunity.

Meanwhile, the Trump Organization pledged to donate its profits from foreign governments to the US Treasury.

Built in the 1890s, the 12-story Old Post Office that houses the Trump International is the third-tallest building in the capital, after the Washington Monument and National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

$12,000 Per Night

Scheduled for demolition several times, it was bailed out in 2011 when Trump pipped Hilton and Hyatt with a bid pledging to sink $200 million into a makeover.

The hotel opened in the fall of 2016, a few months before Trump entered the White House, effectively making the new president his own landlord, in violation of a provision banning elected officials from "any share" of the lease.

A review of rates by AFP found the least expensive room around the end of November would cost $512 per night. A night in the Franklin Suite, including breakfast in bed, was on offer for a cool $12,109.98.

But the sky-high prices did not translate into profit.

Investigators in Congress found the hotel lost more than $70 million during Trump's presidency, concluding that he had "grossly exaggerated" its profits.

The Trump Organization called the report "intentionally misleading, irresponsible and unequivocally false" and described it as "political harassment."

But reports in US media have chronicled low occupancy as the Trump International has struggled to contend with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Trump Organization sold the lease for a reported $375 million to an investment fund, which plans to reopen the hotel in the first months of 2022 as a Waldorf Astoria.

"The Trump Hotel DC stood as a bright neon sign telling foreign countries and moneyed interests how to bribe the president and a stark reminder to Americans that his decisions as president were just as likely to be about his bottom line as about our interests," CREW's Bookbinder added.

"Selling it now that he's out of office and the grift dried up is, to say the least, too little, too late."

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Political Spending At Trump Properties Plunges Sharply

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

The number of federal political committees that have spent money in the first half of 2021 at Trump Organization properties has dropped dramatically from the same period two years ago, Federal Election Commission filings show. Those continuing to spend: a smaller circle of loyal supporters of former President Donald Trump and candidates jockeying for his favor in contested Republican primaries.

During the first six months of 2021, 27 federal committees have reported spending $348,000 at Trump Organization properties, with the Republican National Committee accounting for more than half the total. That's a steep decline from the 177 committees that did so during the 2019-2020 election cycle or the 78 committees that spent more than $1.6 million at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump International Hotel in Washington and other company sites in the first half of 2019, filings show.

Of course, that spending came in the run-up to a presidential election in which Trump was the incumbent. The biggest spenders in 2019 were the RNC and Trump's own political committees raising money to support his campaign.

While the RNC is the top spender so far in 2021, many of the other PACs that used Trump properties as venues for fundraising events and other activities appear to have stopped their spending. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the fundraising arm of House Republicans, has not reported spending any money at Trump properties through May of this year after spending $32,532 during the previous election cycle. (National party committees will file reports covering activity in June on July 20, which may show some spending at Trump's facilities.)

Those that have spent money at Trump properties this year represent some of the former president's most fervent loyalists, including Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who is running for an open Senate seat, and Ronny Jackson of Texas, who previously was the White House physician. Overall, 13 of the 23 committees spending this year are connected to current members of the House or Senate.

"Republican candidates are in a delicate moment, I think, because of uncertainty surrounding Trump's future power," said Abby Wood, a professor of law, political science and public policy at the University of Southern California, in an email. "Trump's power in the next election is much less certain than it was from the vantage point of folks spending money (and enriching him) at his properties in 2019."

The drop in political spending comes at a precarious time for the Trump Organization, which in early July was hit with 10 felony charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., as well as additional charges against Allen Weisselberg, the organization's chief financial officer. Both Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty to the charges, but the impact of the investigation and the fallout of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol appear to have damaged the company's business prospects. The Washington Post described the company as at its "lowest point in decades."

The other spenders include congressional candidates advertising their ties to Trump, such as Lynda Blanchard, who is one of Brooks' opponents for the GOP nomination in the Alabama Senate race, and Josh Mandel, who's running for an open Senate seat in Ohio. Brooks, Blanchard and Mandel have each paid to use Mar-a-Lago, Trump's property in Palm Beach, Florida, while Jackson paid for an event at the Trump hotel in Washington.

"It is my intention to do fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago as often as I can, so long as they help generate positive cash flow for my Senate campaign for America First policies," Brooks said in a statement. "I personally thank President Trump for allowing me to use Mar-a-Lago and hope he will continue to be so generous in the future."

The campaigns of Blanchard, Jackson, and Mandel, along with the RNC and the Trump Organization, did not respond to requests for comment. The RNC has spent more money for events at other locations this year, including $529,000 for a donor event at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach in April.

Mar-a-Lago, a private club that also doubles as the former president's residence, has been the leading recipient of federal political committee spending among Trump properties, bringing in at least $283,000 this year, much of it for hosting an RNC donor retreat in May. In addition to getting the venue and Florida weather, politicians holding events at the club stand a good chance of having Trump make an appearance.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and the BLT Prime restaurant located there, have seen a significant drop-off in political spending compared to the first half of 2019. Two years ago, the D.C. hotel and restaurant brought in more than $518,000, according to FEC records. This year, without Trump in the White House nearby, the total is less than $15,000.

"Given Trump is no longer president and there is less need to curry favor with him, congressional incumbents and party committees may choose less expensive venues," said Paul Herrnson, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut.

‘Major Grifting’: Ivanka Testified Falsely In Inauguration Probe

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Ivanka Trump in sworn testimony claimed she "really didn't have an involvement" in the planning of her father's January 2017 inauguration event, but according to Mother Jones she "testified inaccurately during her deposition" in a lawsuit brought by Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.

Racine is accusing the Trump family of misusing charitable funds to enrich themselves (something of which the Trump family allegedly knows a thing or two.)

"As Racine put it," Mother Jones reports, "the lawsuit maintains 'that the Inaugural Committee, a nonprofit corporation, coordinated with the Trump family to grossly overpay for event space in the Trump International Hotel… The Committee also improperly used non-profit funds to throw a private party [at the Trump Hotel] for the Trump family costing several hundred thousand dollars.' In short, the attorney general accused the Trump gang of major grifting, and he is seeking to recover the money paid to the Trump Hotel so those funds can be used for real charitable purposes."

Ivanka Trump "was part of the decision-making for various aspects of the inauguration, including even the menus for events," despite her sworn testimony that she "really didn't have an involvement" in the planning aside from giving "feedback" if her "opinion was solicited." The report cites "documents filed in that case and material obtained by Mother Jones."

Emails between several individuals suggest Ivanka Trump distanced herself from the events after they were unable to attract "A-listers."

Other parts of the deposition show Ivanka Trump "downplayed her relationship with" Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, apparently a friend of both Ivanka and Melania Trump who later would write a scathing exposé that included then-First Lady Melania Trump's now infamous profanity-laden tirade about kids, cages, and Christmas.

Ivanka Trump "described Winston Wolkoff as 'a person I knew in New York who does events,' adding, 'I didn't know Stephanie Winston that well. I just knew she was very good at planning. I just knew her in that capacity.'"

Emails appear to show that too was false.

Read the entire report here.

Violating Washington’s Mask Ordinance At Trump International Hotel

Multiple high-profile visitors to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., have posted photos of themselves inside the building breaking city regulations meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus — rule violations that could lead to thousands of dollars in fines.

Current and former Trump administration officials, as well as GOP lawmakers and other Republican media personalities, have posted photos of themselves to social media inside the hotel's common spaces without wearing masks or maintaining six feet of space between other guests.

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Trump Hotels And Winery Seem To Qualify For Coronavirus Bailouts

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

Last month's $2 trillion bailout bill barred President Donald Trump, his family or other officials from benefiting from one of the law's giant loan programs. But as reporters noticed, there was no such language included for other elements of the bailout. Some provisions of the bailout are particularly beneficial to businesses like Trump's.

There is no evidence that any provisions in the bailout were written specifically to benefit the president. It's also not known whether the Trumps will seek such aid. We asked the Trump Organization and White House about whether the company plans to apply for bailout loans. They did not respond.

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Trump Uses G-7 Meeting To Tout His Doral Resort

Trump used the G-7 summit to announce his plan to enrich himself further by holding the 2020 G-7 summit at his resort in Doral, Florida.

“They love the location of the hotel,” Trump said on Monday, referring to other world leaders. “We haven’t found anything that’s even close to competing with it. Really you can be there in a matter of minutes after you land.”

As he appeared next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump used the international event to tout the size of his resort and what the Washington Post described as “a long commercial of sorts for the property.”

Trump also touted the possibility of holding the summit on his property during a press conference with reporters on Monday.

“I’m not going to make any money, in my opinion,” he said, denying the fact that he will make money if the summit is held at his resort. Trump touted the “bungalows” at the facility, as well as how much parking is available and its proximity to the airport.

“In this case, Trump is using his power as president to compel foreign officials — the six other leaders and their entourages — into becoming his customers,” the Post noted.

Trump has reportedly been tilting the scales for where to hold the G-7 conference in favor of his property for some time.

Hosting the summit at his resort would funnel money into Trump’s personal accounts because unlike other presidents he has not divested from his private holdings after taking office. Since Trump took the presidency, his properties have experienced increased patronage by foreign governments, private business interests, and the Republican Party.

The money spent there by those entities has added to Trump’s wealth, as has his use of the presidency to promote his properties.

Trump earned $76 million from the Doral property in 2018. However, the resort is also struggling, like many of his holdings and properties have been since he became president.

“In a meeting with a magistrate for the Miami-Dade Value Adjustment Board in December 2018, a consultant hired by the Trump Organization said the hotel is ‘severely under-performing,'” the Miami Herald reported on Monday.

The hotel has a lower occupancy rate than its competitors and revenue has fallen 18% between 2015 and 2017.

The PGA tour left Doral after Trump was sworn in, and the Miami Heat pulled its tournament from the location as well.

All the more reason to try to host a major event.

Previously, Trump used an international event to prop up his property in Doonbeg, Ireland. In June, he went hundreds of miles away from the base of his activity in Europe to visit the resort, racking up taxpayer spending.

Trump insisted that the deviation was “convenient,” justifying the use of the presidency to give the resort international exposure.

Trump’s properties have suffered as companies and organizations seek to distance themselves from his unpopular presidency. Forcing world leaders to travel to his struggling resort is one way to give the property a boost.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

The Mad Corruptions Of Trump Presidency, Inc.

Where’s Shakespeare when we need him? Only the Bard of Avon could do literary justice to the tortured madness of Donald Trump, who fluctuates between petulant self-pity and weird self-praise.

His brags are especially weird because they usually involve achievements he hasn’t made. It’s as though his saying something makes it true — even though everyone except his most naive devotees can clearly see that he’s either hallucinating or lying. In June, for example, at a rally launching his reelection campaign, he retrumpeted an old campaign promise to “drain the swamp,” assuring the adoring crowd that “that’s exactly what we’re doing right now.” Trump gilded the lie with this beauty: “We stared down the unholy alliance of lobbyists and donors and special interests.”

In fact, he brought that entire unholy alliance directly into the White House, the cabinet and every agency to create a corrupt government of, by and for corporate plunderers. At least 230 corporate lobbyists have come inside the Trump Inc. administration. He also opened a luxury hotel right in the center of the swamp, just four blocks from the White House, so he and his family can extract high-dollar hotel payments from special-interest lobbyists wanting favors from the Trump regime of swamp critters.

But wait … didn’t The Donald make his political hires sign an ethics pledge agreeing not to lobby the agencies where they work until five years after they leave? Yes, but remember, Trump is a master at the Art of the Loophole, and his “pledge” provides ample room for an invasion of weasels, including an exception allowing former officials to lobby on agency rule-making. Do they think we have sucker wrappers around our heads? Rule-making is what agencies do! So, this gaping loophole frees Trump officials to sell their insider influence to corporate interests wanting to rig the rules against you and me.

At Trump’s vainglorious campaign rally, he also declared that “nobody has done what we have done in 2 1/2 years.” Sadly, that’s the truest thing he’s said.

News Alert! News Alert! This just in: Donald Trump has discovered homelessness in America.

News Update! News Update! Donald Trump says he has the solution to homelessness in America, points out that he’s already ended homelessness in Washington, D.C.

Once again, we can thank Fox News for its in-depth reporting, going deep into the furrows of Trump’s mind to dig out this startling presidential insight and achievement.

In a June interview by Fox TV sparklie Tucker Carlson, the president of the United States articulated his concern about so many Americans’ now living on the streets. Homelessness is “a phenomenon that started two years ago,” Trump explained to the clueless Carlson, calling the problem “sad.” Our billionaire president showed his usual grasp of history and social awareness by adding, “We never had this in our lives before in this country.”

Oddly, the Fox Man let this go without questioning it. Maybe he was dazzled by Trump’s next observation, analyzing why people live in the street: “Perhaps they like living that way,” posited our presidential son of privilege.

Whatever. The Donald proceeded to declare that it’s intolerable to have such homelessness in our rich country — not because so many poor people are suffering, but because businesspeople and shoppers face the indignity of having to walk past the homeless to get to their offices, banks, cafes, etc. As Tucker beamed credulously, Trump proceeded to offer his solution: simply outlaw those people from cluttering our sidewalks and streets. Then, The Donald royally declared that he “may intercede … to get that whole thing cleaned up.”

Indeed, he claims he’s tidied up homelessness before: “I had a situation when I first became president. We had certain areas of Washington, D.C, where (homelessness) was starting to happen. I ended it very quickly. I said, ‘You can’t do that.'” After all, Trump explained to the obtuse Fox interviewer, “When you have leaders of the world coming to see the president … they can’t be looking at that.”

It’s one thing to have a president who thinks “Out of sight; out of mind” should be an actual public policy. It’s another thing to have a president who’s clearly out of his mind.

 

Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes “The Hightower Lowdown,” a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America’s ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.