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House Oversight Docs Show Nations Spent Over $750K at Trump Hotel Seeking to Influence Administration

November 14, 2022

Six nations spent lavishly at the hotel during periods when they were seeking to influence the Trump administration, according to a breakdown released by the House Oversight Committee.

 

NEW YORK TIMES~WASHINGTON — Officials from six nations spent more than $750,000 at former President Donald J. Trump’s hotel in Washington when they were seeking to influence his administration, renting rooms for more than $10,000 per night, according to documents that his former accounting firm turned over to Congress.

The governments of Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and China spent more money than previously known at the Trump International Hotel at crucial times in 2017 and 2018 for those countries’ relations with the United States, according to the documents, which were obtained by the House Oversight Committee and released on Monday.

The officials spent freely at the hotel, the records show. The Malaysian prime minister, for instance, hired a $1,500 personal trainer during his stay at the Trump hotel in 2017. The Saudi Ministry of Defense rented several suites, costing $10,500 each, with rooms reserved under the name “His Excellency.” Qatari officials spent more than $300,000 there in the weeks leading up to a meeting with Mr. Trump in 2018.

The documents build on the public record of how Mr. Trump’s hotel brought in millions during his presidency from foreign governments. The Oversight Committee has previously estimated that the hotel received more than $3.75 million from foreign governments from 2017 to 2020, raising concerns about possible violations of the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause.

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The new documents cover only a period of months, but they provide a revealing window into how foreign governments spent heavily at the hotel during key months when they were trying to influence Mr. Trump’s administration. The documents also show that Republican lobbyists working on behalf of these countries — some operating without registering as foreign agents, as required by law — spent tens of thousands more at the Trump hotel during the same periods.

“It paints an extremely troubling picture,” Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the committee, said in an interview. She added that the documents “sharply call into question the extent to which President Trump was guided by his personal financial interest while in office rather than the best interests of the American people.”

Eric Trump, when asked about the spending by these government officials, said on Monday that any profit the family company earned on the hotel stays was returned to the federal government through a voluntary annual payment to the Treasury Department.

Numerous inquiries. Since leaving office, former President Donald J. Trump has been facing several investigations into his business dealings and political activities. Here is a look at some notable cases:

Classified documents inquiry. The F.B.I. searched Mr. Trump’s Florida home as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into his handling of classified materials. The inquiry is focused on documents that Mr. Trump had brought with him to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence, when he left the White House.

Jan. 6 investigations. In a series of public hearings, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack laid out a comprehensive narrative of Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. This evidence could allow federal prosecutors, who are conducting a parallel criminal investigation, to indict Mr. Trump.

Georgia election interference case. Fani T. Willis, the Atlanta-area district attorney, has been leading a wide-ranging criminal investigation into the efforts of Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia. This case could pose the most immediate legal peril for the former president and his associates.

New York State’s civil case. Letitia James, the New York attorney general, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Trump and his family business, accusing both of a sweeping pattern of fraudulent business practices. The yearslong investigation has been focused on whether Mr. Trump’s statements about the value of his assets were part of a pattern of fraud or simply Trumpian showmanship.

Manhattan criminal case. Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, has been investigating whether Mr. Trump or his family business intentionally submitted false property values to potential lenders. While it appears Mr. Trump is unlikely to be indicted, the investigation has yielded criminal charges against the Trump Organization and a plea deal with its chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg.

“As a company, we went to tremendous lengths to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest,” Eric Trump said in a statement, “not due to any legal requirement, but because of the respect we have towards the office of the presidency.”

Last month, the committee released records showing that the Secret Service had paid more than $1.4 million to Trump hotel properties since Mr. Trump took office in 2017, and had charged as much as $1,185 per night for hotel rooms used by agents protecting Mr. Trump and his family.

The committee disclosed the latest documents as it released a letter from Ms. Maloney to the National Archives seeking additional documents about the Trump hotel and communications with foreign governments. The National Archives confirmed on Monday that it had received the letter.

Ms. Maloney said the additional documents were needed to “determine whether former President Trump distorted U.S. foreign policy to serve his own financial interests at the expense of the American people and in violation of his oath of office.”

The documents released on Monday show that in September 2017, Mr. Trump welcomed Najib Razak, the prime minister of Malaysia at the time, to the White House when Mr. Razak and members of his family were under investigation by the Justice Department.

Mr. Razak and his entourage spent at least $259,000 at the Trump hotel. Mr. Trump praised the Malaysian leader, thanking him for “all the investment you’ve made in the United States.”

Among the services the Malaysians paid for were more than $9,000 for delegation coffee breaks; more than $8,000 for three in-room lunches; and the $1,500 charge for a personal trainer for the prime minister, who stayed in the hotel’s $10,000-a-night presidential suite.

The documents also show that Elliott Broidy, the vice chairman of the Trump Victory Committee who at the time was also the vice chairman of the Republican National Committee, stayed at the hotel for four nights during the Malaysian delegation’s visit and spent more than $5,000. Mr. Broidy later pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Malaysia and illegally lobbying Mr. Trump and the Justice Department to drop the investigation.

White House officials denied at the time that Mr. Najib had picked the hotel at Mr. Trump’s behest. “We certainly don’t book their hotel accommodations,” the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was recently elected governor of Arkansas, said in 2017.

Also that year, after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates severed ties with Qatar, igniting a regional crisis, all three governments spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at the Trump hotel while lobbying the administration.

From late 2017 through mid-2018, government officials from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates spent at least $164,000 at the Trump hotel, while Qatari officials and connected companies spent at least $307,000, the Oversight Committee found.

From March 7, 2018, to March 14, 2018, the Saudi Ministry of Defense spent more than $85,000, including renting several $10,500 suites. Two officials who stayed there were referred to as “His Excellency,” indicating that the Saudi royal family or senior government ministers were patronizing the Trump hotel.

On March 20, 2018, Mr. Trump met with Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler who at the time was also serving as defense minister, at the White House. Two days later, the White House approved $1.3 billion in arms sales to the Saudi government.

The records released by House investigators also show a total of $65,139 in charges by the American Turkish Council, a nonprofit group with ties to the Turkish government.

The council helped sponsor two conferences held at the Trump hotel in Washington in 2017 and 2019, at around the same time President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey pushed Mr. Trump and his aides to shut down an investigation into sanctions violations by a state-owned Turkish bank. The Embassy of Turkey Delegation and Embassy of Turkey also had billing records at the hotel, but no details on the amounts paid.

Records from Mazars USA, the longtime accounting firm for Mr. Trump that cut ties with him and his family business this year, also showed $19,370 in spending by a delegation from the Embassy of China at the Trump hotel in late August 2017, two months before Mr. Trump traveled to the country.

The Trump Organization wrote checks to the Treasury Department totaling $355,687 covering profits at its hotels during the first three years of Mr. Trump’s tenure at the White House. But it never provided a breakdown of which foreign government officials had stayed at its hotels.

The House Oversight Committee, after a yearslong fight, recently entered into a legal settlement with Mazars in which the firm agreed to produce a range of financial documents from several years before Mr. Trump took office and during his early presidency. Mazars said in February that it could no longer stand behind a decade of annual financial statements it had prepared for the Trump Organization.

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