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Emoluments watch: Trump’s DC hotel spiked rates shortly after his inauguration

The Washington D.C. hotel owned by the Trump family wasn’t supposed to be making money so soon after opening its doors in September, but its connection to the president and its proximity to the White House and Capitol Hill have given the property a healthy boost to its bottom line.

Trump International Hotel made $ 1.97 million in profit in the first four months of the year, up from an original forecast of a $ 2.1 million loss, beating expectations by nearly 200 percent, according to government data first reported by the Washington Post. Before Donald Trump won the presidential election last year, the Trump Organization estimated the hotel would lose money in 2017 as it invested in growing its start-up hotel and convention business.

The election of the hotel’s namesake may have played a key role in boosting sales.

The hotel has quickly become a popular convention space for right-leaning groups who view it as a safe space where they won’t be triggered by any of the city’s many liberal Democrats. Foreign diplomats, lobbyists, high-ranking U.S. officials and political fundraisers have booked rooms, lounge and dined at what’s increasingly looking like an extension of the White House

Demand for rooms at Trump International Hotel has allowed the Trump Organization to jack-up prices for a one-night stay to an average of $ 653, well above what the business was estimated to charge last year. Its prices are more than $ 100 higher than what comparable luxury hotels like the Ritz-Carlton and Willard InterContinental are charging.

“The Trump International is, if not the, then one of the top rate-getters in the city,” Marc Magazine, an executive at the real estate firm Savills Studley told the Post, which cited data from the U.S. General Services Administration, the building’s public landlord, on Friday.

Critics, including government ethics experts and members of Congress, say the president’s refusal to divest from his family’s sprawling business has created a minefield of conflicts of interests. Profit from the hotel’s business with foreign government officials, they say, amounts to a violation of the constitutional emoluments clause which bars presidents from accepting gifts from foreign government officials.

The hotel’s management has pledged to donate proceeds from foreign officials to the U.S. Treasury, but at the same time, the Department of Justice (headed by Jeff Sessions, one of Trump’s earliest congressional supporters) has ruled the emoluments clause doesn’t apply to fair market commercial transitions.

Situated between the White House and Capitol Hill, Trump International Hotel is located in the converted 119-year-old Old Post Office Pavilion, a historic Romanesque building and clock tower owned by the federal government. The federal government collects $ 3 million in annual rent from the Trump Organization for the hotel.

Angelo Young.

Source: Salon: in-depth news, politics, business, technology & culture > Politics

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