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Business Booming At Trump's DC Hotel, 'Make America Great Again' Central

May 16,2018 21:39

The Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C., which opened its doors days before the 2016 election, is thriving under Donald Trump's presidency. New filings released on Wednesday show that revenues topped $40 million in 2017—its first full year of ...and more »

Chase Peterson-Withorn , Forbes Staff

Trump's limousine parked in front of his D.C. hotel during a dinner with supporters, April 30, 2018. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

The Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C., which opened its doors days before the 2016 election, is thriving under Donald Trump’s presidency. New filings released on Wednesday show that revenues topped $40 million in 2017—its first full year of operations—as Trump supporters, corporate tycoons and foreign officials poured into the place for $25 cocktails, $110 steaks and, in some cases, $18,000 suites.
Those high prices afford guests something few hotels can: the chance of running into the President of the United States, who has dined there ten times since taking office, according to the Washington Post. Conservative pundits and celebrities are known to mingle in the lobby. Former chief economic advisor Gary Cohn was said to be living there at one point, alongside Cabinet members Steven Mnuchin and Linda McMahon.
All that power attracts more money. Dozens of political and business groups have held events there. Representatives of foreign governments, including Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, have reportedly booked stays at the 263-room hotel.
Originally the headquarters of the U.S. Post Office, the building first opened in 1899 and has since housed a number of federal agencies, including the departments of Justice, Defense, Agriculture and Interior. The U.S. General Services Administration opened bidding for the property’s redevelopment rights in 2011. Trump beat out nine other bidders for the 60-year ground lease, agreeing to pay the government $3 million per year in rent.
Trump has mixed business and politics at the hotel from the beginning. When he attended the building’s ribbon cutting ceremony in October 2016, the supposed break from the campaign could’ve easily been mistaken for a Trump rally. “My theme today is 5 words: ‘under budget and ahead of schedule,’” Trump said, boasting about the property’s renovations in six words. “We don’t hear those words too often in government—but you will!”
Some ethics experts questioned Trump’s deal with the GSA (as head of the federal government, Trump essentially serves as his own landlord) and whether the hotel’s business violates the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits U.S. officials from accepting gifts, titles or "emoluments" from foreign governments.
Before taking office, Trump elected to donate all of the proceeds the Trump Organization receives from foreign governments at its hotels to the U.S. Treasury. In February, the company wrote the Treasury a check for $151,470 to cover the period spanning Trump’s inauguration through the end of 2017.
It's a small chunk of change for Trump, equivalent to just 0.4% of the revenue generated by his D.C. hotel alone in 2017. Trump’s previous financial disclosure listed revenues of $19.7 million just between the hotel’s September 2016 soft opening and mid-April 2017—a period that included both Trump’s election and inauguration. Forbes estimates that the president’s 77.5% stake in the project is worth $53 million after debt. His children, Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump own the rest, worth roughly $15 million.

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