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Trump Organization contemplates selling Washington hotel

10/28/2019

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Amid ethics complaints and accusations of unfair profit, the Trump Organization announced that it is considering selling the leasing rights to its Washington, D.C. hotel.

The luxury hotel is located in a 121-year-old Old Post Office Pavilion building and is just a 15-minute walk from the White House. The Trump Organization does not own the hotel but has a lease for more than 100 years with the federal government. As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Trump Organization recently hired real estate company JLL to market the lease rights to the hotel to high-profile real estate developers and property investors.

“Since we opened our doors, we have received tremendous interest in this hotel and as real-estate developers, we are always willing to explore our options,” Eric Trump, vice president of the Trump Organization, told the Wall Street Journal.

The Trump Organization is currently headed by President Donald Trump’s two sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric. Trump announced that he is stepping back from the organization not long after being sworn in as president in 2017. Sources told the Journal that the organization hopes to get more than $500 million for the lease rights, which would even out to about $2 million for each room key. The lease would also be sold unencumbered, which means that the new owner could choose to either keep or get rid of the Trump name on the hotel.

The decision to sell the lease, according to the Journal, came after several democratic and watchdog groups complained of the ethics of the President being so connected to the property and profiting off it even after allegedly handing over control of the organization. The hotel received the Trump branding not long after Trump was elected President in 2016.

According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington ethics nonprofit group, Trump has, since becoming President, visited the hotel nearly 24 times while executive-levels officials in his administration have stayed there 390 times. Even members of Trump’s administration find that surprising — the inspector general of the General Services Administration, which leases the hotel to the Trumps, claimed that Trump keeping the lease might be in contradiction to guidelines in the Constitution’s emoluments clause back in January. (The clause prevents federal officeholders, including the President, from benefitting financially from their positions.)

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According to the Journal, revenue at the hotel rose by around $400,000 to $40.8 million in 2018. The Trump Organization claims that it does not market the hotel to foreign dignitaries and donated $191,538 to the Treasury Department to reimburse any money it made from foreign government guests who stayed there last year. Many lawmakers, however, believe that things are not quite so simple.

“I’m skeptical that this latest development isn’t an attempt to make a massive profit that directly benefits the Trump family, so I will be following this marketing attempt closely,” Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a statement Friday.

At the moment, Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower revealed that Trump allegedly pressured the President of Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden. A federal appeals court has also agreed to rehear a lawsuit on whether Trump is illegally profiting from foreign dignitary visits to the hotel. Eric Trump, however, claims that any discontent surrounding the hotel comes simply because the Organization is making too much money from it.

“People are objecting to us making so much money on the hotel, and therefore we may be willing to sell,” Eric Trump told the Journal.

Email Veronika Bondarenko

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