Congressmen loyal to Trump Hotel D.C. benefit from pro–Trump dark-money group’s ad buys
From “Pro-Trump group launching ads supporting Meadows, Jordan” by Betsy Klein for CNN:
The pro-Trump America First Policies group is launching two television ads this week in support of Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the group tells CNN. Both are ardent supporters of the President on Capitol Hill and on the cable news circuit.
The $100,000 ad buy is a sign that Trump-aligned groups are rewarding those loyal to the President.
Jordan’s campaign has spent $10,572.29 at the president’s hotel; Meadows’s total is $9,196.99. Each campaign even spent exactly the same amount ($1,461.79) on food at the hotel on Nov. 16, 2018 (they went Dutch?!).
And just last month, Meadows and Jordan criticized a GSA inspector general report that raised question on the legality of the hotel’s lease.
Here’s Jordan mugging at the Trump Hotel D.C. in July 2018 with Martha Boneta—a policy advisor for America First Policies. Yep, that’s the same group that’s behind the ad buy. (The other guy is reportedly a member of the NRA’s board of directors.)
Consensus: Yesterday’s emoluments hearing did not go well for the DC and MD attorneys general
“Lawsuit accusing Trump of violating Constitution gets hostile reception” by John Gerstein for Politico
“Appeals court judges appear skeptical of emoluments case against Trump” by Sharon LaFraniere for The New York Times
“Judges seem skeptical Trump is illegally profiting from his D.C. hotel” by Ann E. Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell for The Washington Post
“Federal judges grill lawyers who claim Trump violating emoluments clause” by Denise Lavoie for The Associated Press
“Judges lean toward Trump in hotel ‘emoluments’ case” by Jan Wolfe for Reuters
“Trump emoluments challengers face skeptical appeals court panel” by Andrew M. Harris for Bloomberg
“Under sharp questioning, Maryland tries to sustain suit over Trump business dealings” by Jeff Barker for The Baltimore Sun
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Lobbyist happy hour sets date for April meetup
The next Trump First Tuesday, a “business networking happy hour for government relations professionals [lobbyists] and friends” has been scheduled for April 2. This event now will have facilitated lobbyists mingling at the president’s hotel in 11 of the last 13 months.
Separately, the Arlington [Virginia] Republican party will have a meetup at the Trump Hotel D.C., in conjunction with a D.C. MAGA meetup, the following Tuesday.
‘Wall Street Journal’ incorrectly listed as sponsor of Mar-a-Lago event
Yesterday’s 1100 Pennsylvania reported that The Wall Street Journal was listed as a sponsor for the motorsports celebration The Palm Event, which will be held at Mar-a-Lago this weekend. In response to an inquiry from 1100 Pennsylvania, both the event’s organizer and a Wall Street Journal spokesperson said the paper is not involved with the festivities.
“That sponsorship was under a previous owner,” wrote Scott Shrader, president of The Palm Event. “They haven’t been on any of our credentials in well over a year. I believe that there was a logo on one of our pages, which I just removed.”
“WSJ is not a sponsor of this event and the organizers have removed our logo from their site (which wasn’t our current branding to begin with),” wrote Steve Severinghaus, a senior director of communications at Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal’s parent company.
The old list of sponsors from The Palm Event’s website is on the left; an updated one, showing which companies are actually supporting an event at the president’s business, is at right.
Mike Pence’s Great America Committee spent another $55,105.51 at his boss’s hotel in February 2019 (first noted by Dave Levinthal of The Center for Public Integrity). That brings Pence’s PAC’s total spending at the Trump Hotel D.C. up to at least $221,043.23.
Trump reportedly has told his advisors he wants to keep Pence on the ticket.
Antony Liu, the CEO of Blue Ocean Capital Group, dined with someone who appears to be a member of a religious order and enjoys lobster. In a lawsuit filed last month, a Chinese citizen residing in California alleged that Liu and Blue Ocean Capital unlawfully sold him $2 million worth of a cryptocurrency. (Due to a formatting limitation, please select this link to watch the video.)
Rabia Kazan, the president of the pro-Trump Middle Eastern Women’s Coalition and a director of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump was back at the Trump Hotel D.C. In the past two weeks, Kazan has live-streamed from the Trump Hotel D.C., entered the White House on an official visit, pitched her cause to the U.S. president at Mar-a-Lago, and now returned to the Trump Hotel D.C.
Other Trump Organization news
“Trump has now shifted $1.3 million of campaign-donor money into his business” by Dan Alexander for Forbes
“President Trump has some stories to tell about Deutsche Bank” by Timothy L. O’Brien for Bloomberg Opinion
“Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo dropped by President Trump’s resort in advance of a state visit. You can probably guess what happened next” by Tim Dickinson for Rolling Stone
“U.S. President Donald Trump will meet at his Florida resort on Friday with the leaders of the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Saint Lucia to discuss Chinese ‘predatory economic practices’ and the Venezuela situation, the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.” By Eric Beech for Reuters.
“One reason the raid was necessary, investigators said, was because they had not been able to obtain the contents of Mr. Cohen’s Trump Organization email account.” By Nicole Hong and Rebecca Davis O’Brien for The Wall Street Journal.
“Planning officials have recommended that Trump Organization’s contentious plans to expand its inaugural Scottish golf resort should be allowed, despite admitting that they fall foul of the local authority’s own policies and represent a “significant departure” from the original proposals.” By Martyn McLaughlin for The Scotsman.
“Trump’s letter to George Conway” via The Washington Post
A co-owner of Cork wine bar, which sued President Trump and the Trump Hotel D.C. for unfair competition, is looking for co-plaintiffs:
“Marriott International takes over the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto and makes a few ultra-luxurious updates, but only a few” by Michael Kaminer for The New York Times
House investigations, current status (latest changes, March 20, 2019)
Financial Services—Sent an inquiry to Deutsche Bank AG on its ties to Trump, according to the bank on Jan. 24. On March 1, chair Rep. Maxine Waters (D–CA) said the bank is cooperating with her committee and that staffers from the panel have met with bank employees in New York.
Foreign Affairs—Chair Rep. Elliot Engel (D–NY) “plans to investigate whether President Donald Trump’s businesses are driving foreign policy decisions, including whether Trump violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution in the process” per CNN on Jan. 23.
UPDATED Judiciary—On March 4, the committee “served document requests to 81 agencies, entities, and individuals believed to have information relevant to the investigation,” according to a statement by the panel. Among the individuals the committee requested documents from are Trump Organization EVP Donald Trump Jr.; EVP Eric Trump; EVP and COO Michael Calamari; CFO Alan Weisselberg; EVP and chief legal officer Alan Garten; Trump tax attorney Sherri Dillon; longtime Trump executive assistant Rhona Graff; former Trump advisor Felix Sater; former Trump attorney Michael Cohen; and Trump associate and inaugural chair, Tom Barrack. The committee received “tens of thousands” of documents by the March 18 deadline the letters set for responses, according to its chair, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D–NY). Among the respondents: Barrack, Steve Bannon, and the National Rifle Association. But current White House staffers, as well as some former ones have not replied yet. And GOP committee staffers said the panel only received eight replies by the deadline.
UPDATED Intelligence—On Feb. 6, chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D–CA) issued a statement that said his committee would investigate links or coordination between the Russian government/related foreign actors and individuals associated with Trump’s businesses, as well as if foreign actors sought to compromise or hold leverage over Trump’s businesses. On Feb. 10, Schiff said the committee would investigate Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, a major lender to the Trump Organization. Earlier, on Jan. 24, the committee sent an inquiry to Deutsche Bank AG on its ties to Trump, according to the bank. On Feb. 28, an aide said the panel expects to interview Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. During testimony on March 6, Michael Cohen turned over documents that allegedly show how Trump’s then-personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, edited Cohen’s statement regarding Trump Tower Moscow. Cohen later read this revised statement before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Felix Sater, who was connected to the Trump Moscow project, is scheduled to testify in an open hearing on March 27. Schiff hired a veteran prosecutor experienced with combating Russian organized crime to lead this investigation.
Oversight and Reform—Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings’s (D–MD) staff “has already sent out 51 letters to government officials, the White House, and the Trump Organization asking for documents related to investigations that the committee may launch,” on Jan. 13. In a Feb. 15 letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Cummings said the committee received documents showing White House attorney Stefan Passantino and long-time Trump personal attorney Sheri Dillon provided “false information” to the Office of Government Ethics regarding Michael Cohen’s “hush-money payments.” As a result, Cummings wants to depose Passantino and Dillon; the White House, however, rejected Cummings’ request to interview Passantino. And on Feb. 27, Cohen testified to the committee about those payments and other Trump Organization business practices, which could lead to the committee requesting the president’s tax returns and allegations of possible insurance fraud. The next day, House Democrats signaled they would seek testimony from Trump Organization officials whom Cohen alleged were implicated, including Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and CFO Allen Weisselberg. On March 6, Cummings requested information from the GSA about its reversal of an earlier decision to relocate FBI headquarters, which is located across the street from the Trump Hotel D.C.
Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management—Transportation committee chair Rep. Peter DeFazio (D–OR) and subcommittee chair Dina Titus (D–NV) sent a letter to GSA administrator Emily Murphy on Jan. 22 asking for all communication between the GSA and members of the Trump family dating back to 2015, an explanation of how the D.C. hotel calculates its profits, profit statements since the hotel opened, any guidance from the White House regarding the lease, and whether or not Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are recused from participating in decisions regarding the property. GSA has “sent a partial response and the subcommittee is reviewing it,” according to a senior House staffer familiar with the situation. When hearings begin, it is likely that Murphy will be the first person called to testify, according to a person familiar with the subcommittee’s plans. Titus is hiring additional staffers to handle the investigation. On March 6, Titus requested information from the GSA about its reversal of an earlier decision to relocate the FBI headquarters, which is located across the street from the Trump Hotel D.C. NPR reported on March 15 that, “Democrats on the committee want to know, among other things, whether there was any political pressure exerted on the GSA by the Trump White House, presidential campaign or transition team. They also want to know how the Trump Hotel calculates its profits, segregates incoming money from foreign governments, and what the Trump Organization owes the GSA on a monthly or annual basis.’”
Ways and Means subcommittee on Oversight—The subcommittee held its first hearing on “legislative proposals and tax law related to presidential and vice-presidential tax returns” on Feb. 7. “We will ask the question: Does the public have a need to know that a person seeking the highest office in our country obeys tax law?” said chair Rep. John Lewis (D–GA). Experts in tax law testified.
Legal cases, current status (latest change, March 20, 2019)
UPDATED Official capacity—On Dec. 20, 2018, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it would hear the president’s appeal of district court rulings that allowed the case to proceed to discovery, and the appellate court halted discovery in the case. Discovery had started Dec. 3 and was scheduled to run through Aug. 2, 2019, with the AGs having subpoenaed the Trump Organization, including its Scottish golf courses; the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, and Treasury and the GSA; and the state of Maine. Oral arguments on the appeal occurred on March 19; by all accounts the three-judge panel (all Republican appointees, including one who was a selection of President Trump’s) were skeptical of the AGs’ case. D.C. AG Karl Racine pledged to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
Individual capacity—On Dec. 14, Trump’s personal attorneys appealed the denial of their motion to dismiss the case, also to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Dec. 19, the AGs replied to Trump’s motion for a stay pending that appeal by voluntarily dismissing the claims against Trump in his “individual capacity to allow the claims against President Trump in his official capacity to move forward expeditiously.” (The AGs only brought suit against Trump in his individual capacity after the judge suggested they do so.) Trump’s personal attorneys, on Dec. 21, opposed the motion to dismiss at the district level, saying the appeals court now has jurisdiction and accusing the AGs of “gamesmanship.”
Democratic senators and representatives’ emoluments lawsuit—On Sept. 28, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled that the legislators have standing to sue. Trump’s Justice Department attorneys filed an interlocutory appeal on Oct. 22. On Jan. 30, 2019, the plaintiffs’ filed a notice of supplemental authority, notifying the court of the GSA inspector general’s report that criticized GSA for failing to consider if the Trump Hotel D.C.’s lease was in compliance with the Constitution after Trump became president. Two days later, the president’s attorneys argued that the IG’s conclusion was not inconsistent with Trump’s argument, but that the judge should ignore that report anyway because the IG has no expertise in interpreting or applying the foreign emoluments clause.
CREW et. al’s emoluments lawsuit—In February 2018, CREW appealed its suit being dismissed for lack of standing to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments on that motion were held on Oct. 30.
Cork’s unfair competition lawsuit—Judge Richard J. Leon dismissed the case on Nov. 26, 2018, writing “Cork has failed to state a claim for unfair competition under D.C. law.” On Dec. 10, Cork’s attorneys filed a notice of appeal and on Jan. 10, 2019 they submitted a statement of issues to be raised. A briefing schedule was set on March 5 with Cork’s brief due on April 15, the president’s brief due on May 15, and Cork’s reply to the president’s brief due on June 5.
Employees’ class-action suit alleging racial discrimination—Two of the three plaintiffs did not appear at a status hearing on Jan. 25, 2019; their cases were moved to arbitration. Via email, their attorney, A.J. Dhali, said his clients did not appear at the hearing because their case already had been moved to arbitration last year. The next status hearing is scheduled for Oct. 4.
Health inspections, current status (latest change, Aug. 10, 2018)
❌Hotel: five violations on May 7, 2018; two were corrected on site
❌BLT Prime and Benjamin Bar: nine violations on Aug. 10, 2018
❌Sushi Nakazawa: two violations on Aug. 10, 2018
✔️Banquet kitchen: no violations on Aug. 10, 2018
❌Pastry kitchen: two violations on Aug. 10, 2018
✔️Gift shop: no violations on May 7, 2018
❌Employee kitchen and in-room dining: five violations on Aug. 10, 2018; two were corrected on site
One thing that has nothing to do with Trump’s businesses (I think, tough to tell sometimes!)
From “Preparing for conflicts by cyber-means” by The Economist:
"When Latvia conducted its biggest-ever national military exercise last August, which mobilised more than 10,000 people, a group of researchers discovered that using only open-source information they could identify about 10% of the individuals involved—and use that knowledge to track the exercise in real time. They also found they could make a soldier leave his post, against orders. Janis Sarts, director of NATO’s Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, which ran the experiment, said it was very simple.
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