Shortly after President Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, lobbyists funded by Saudi Arabia spent more than $270,000 booking hundreds of hotel rooms at Trump’s Washington hotel, according to a new report.
The lobbyists paid to send U.S. military veterans to Capitol Hill to push back on a law the Saudis opposed, veterans and organizers told The Washington Post. While the vets were originally sent to hotels in northern Virginia, the lobbyists switched to the Trump International Hotel less than a month after Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, the Post reported Thursday.
Those lobbyists paid for about 500 nights at the hotel in three months, the Post estimated. The White House, the Trump Organization and the Saudi Embassy did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment on the report.
The newspaper’s report cited documents from the lobbyists and interviews with two dozen veterans. Some of the vets interviewed said they were not told that Saudi Arabia was involved in organizing and funding the trips. One political operative who helped coordinate the trips told the Post that the hotel, located just minutes from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, was chosen because it offered a discount on its nightly rate at that time of $768, and “had nothing to do” with influencing Trump.
The new details about the kingdom’s splurge at a Trump property comes amid an ongoing lawsuit backed by nearly 200 members of Congress claiming Trump violated a constitutional ban on political office holders accepting gifts or emoluments from foreign governments.
In a June 2017 complaint filed in D.C. federal court, more than two dozen senators and more than 160 House members argued that Trump “has chosen to accept numerous benefits from foreign states without first seeking or obtaining congressional approval” in violation of the Constitution’s so-called emoluments clause.
Trump stepped down from his leadership role at the Trump Organization before his inauguration in January 2017 but refused to divest his ownership stake. The Trump Organization sent about $151,000 to the U.S. Treasury in 2018 to reimburse the government for the profit it received from foreign governments, but it did not explain how that number was calculated, according to the Post.
The Post’s report came a day after attorneys general in Maryland and D.C., in a separate emoluments case, sent subpoenas for financial records from more than a dozen Trump business entities.