The president, six cabinet members, and a Nigerian dignitary
|ME||Jun 26, 2019|
Trump headlined donor gathering, Sanders’ farewell party at his D.C. hotel last night
Last night we witnessed peak synergy between the Trump Organization, administration, and campaign when the president visited his D.C. hotel to separately address donors to a joint fundraising committee and White House staffers.
And just hours after a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit alleging the president is violating the Constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments at his businesses could proceed to discovery, the honorary leader of a Nigerian ethnic group was spotted hanging out at the hotel too (it’s not clear who picked up his tab).
The intersection of Trumpian government, politics, and commerce last night was perhaps best captured by Donald Trump Jr.:
senior advisor on the Trump 2020 presidential campaign and girlfriend to the president’s son/business partner, Kimberly Guilfoyle
Charlie Kirk who heads Turning Point USA, a good Trump Org. customer (for example, it hosted a $2,500-a-person gala at Mar-a-Lago in December)
President Trump, who still owns and can profit from his businesses
Trump Org EVP Don Jr. who supposedly is walled off from his father’s administration but, based on his Twitter activity, is focused on getting his dad re-elected rather than opening new golf course
Don Jr.’s Instagram post, which notes the Trump Hotel D.C. as the location, also includes a photo of his dad speaking behind the seal of the president of the United States. This photo seems to violate a promise made in a pre-inauguration press conference by Trump Org attorney Sherri Dillon. She said that Trump “directed that no communications of the Trump Organization, including social media accounts, will reference or be tied to President-elect Trump’s role as president of the United States or the office of the presidency.”
Meanwhile, White House staffers gathered in the hotel’s Franklin Study to bid farewell to Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Proving more helpful to the media than he ever was as Sanders’ predecessor, Sean Spicer shared a few photos that show some of the government employees gathered at the president’s for-profit business.
Among the the almost all-white crowd captured in Spicer’s photographs are
acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar
former Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon who now chairs pro-Trump super PAC/loyal Trump Hotel D.C. client America First Action
White House staffer and hotel co-owner Ivanka Trump
former deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah
White House communications director and press secretary Stephanie Grisham
deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley (six of the last nine photos on his Instagram feed showcase Trump properties)
Fox News co-president turned White House communications director turned Trump campaign advisor Bill Shine
Today’s Politico Playbook included other notables in attendance:
Energy Secretary Rick Perry
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), a big booster of the Trump Hotel D.C.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway
White House senior advisor Stephen Miller
director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R–CA) (his joint fundraising committee and campaign have spent more than $225,000 at the hotel)
Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)
HUD Secretary Ben Carson
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie
It marked the first time Azar, Chao, and Perdue were spotted at their boss’s D.C. hotel, meaning 23 of the 30 different officials who have served in President Trump’s cabinet have visited the Trump Hotel D.C.
Also at the Trump Hotel D.C. last evening was the latest Nigerian dignitary to visit the U.S. president’s business: “HRM Eze Dr. Christian Nwachukwu, Eze Ndi Igbo Lagos state.” He’s an honorary leader of one of the three main ethnic groups within Lagos, according to a journalist who covers that region, Matt Mossman. The hotel, by the way, was probably aware of Nwachukwu’s presence, as a hotel staffer was spotted carrying a Nigerian flag yesterday afternoon (a tip from David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post).
(Earlier this year the main opposition candidate in Nigeria’s presidential election and a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar; a long-shot Nigerian presidential candidate; and Nigerian Senators stayed at the U.S. president’s D.C. hotel.)
But while social media provides a unique look at who’s appearing at the Trump Hotel D.C., nothing can compare to being there and getting a selfie with the hotel owner and leader of the free world.
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Judge denied Trump‘s motion to delay lawmakers’ suit, discovery scheduled to start Friday
From “Democrats’ emoluments lawsuit against President Trump can proceed, federal judge rules” by Ann E. Marimow, Jonathan O’Connell, and Carol D. Leonnig for The Washington Post:
Rejecting a request from President Trump, a federal judge in Washington on Tuesday cleared the way for nearly 200 Democrats in Congress to continue their lawsuit against him alleging that his private business violates an anti-corruption provision of the Constitution.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan declined to put the case on hold and said lawmakers could begin this week seeking financial information, interviews and other records from the Trump Organization…
The Trump administration still can try to delay or block Democrats in Congress from issuing subpoenas for the president’s closely held business information by appealing directly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to intervene.
Sullivan set discovery for June 28 through Sept. 27, 2019. Read Sullivan’s ruling here.
Per a statement his office yesterday yesterday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (R–CT), the lead plaintiff in the case, liked Sullivan’s ruling:
“This tremendous victory assures that President Trump will be held accountable to the Constitution and the American people—a historic triumph for legally mandated transparency. In a thoughtful, well-reasoned opinion, Judge Sullivan articulated what the law makes clear: there is absolutely no reason to delay one more day in ensuring that President Trump is held accountable for his violation of the Constitution’s preeminent anti-corruption provision.”
Other Trump Organization news
“House spending bill calls for more scrutiny of Trump hotel lease” by Daniel J. Sernovitz for Washington Business Journal
“How to throw a party at Mar-a-Lago: Cindy Yang was just a massage-parlor tycoon turned GOP bundler until Robert Kraft got arrested and the FBI noticed.” By Andrew Rice for New York Magazine.
“Debt, conflict, and vacancy imperil Kushners’ Times Square dream” by Caleb Melby and David Kocieniewski for Bloomberg
“The migrant children in tent cities could have a suite at Trump’s Washington hotel for rates lower than what the U.S. government spends detaining them” by Sinéad Baker for Business Insider
“Eric Trump spit on at The Aviary, employee put on leave” by Sam Kelly and Nader Issa for The Chicago Sun Times
We need to know who’s paying the president
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House investigations, current status (latest change, June 22, 2019)
The committee sent a 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 her staffers met with bank employees. On March 11, the committee requested documents on Trump’s businesses from Capital One; the bank said it was preserving documents but needed a subpoena to comply per Politico. On April 15, that subpoena was issued. The committee reportedly has subpoenaed nine banks for information about the president’s finances. President Trump, Don Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and their businesses sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One on April 30 to prevent them from sharing records with Congress. Deutsche Bank reportedly has been willing to cooperate with lawmakers. On May 3, the Trumps filed for a preliminary injunction to block the subpoenas. But the judge declined to issue that injunction on May 22, saying that the financial institutions can comply with the lawmakers’ request. The Trumps’ appealed that ruling on May 24. The lawmakers and Trumps agreed to refrain from enforcing the subpoenas until after the appellate court issued its ruling. The court announced it will expedite the briefing process, which will end on July 18, and hold a hearing held shortly thereafter.
Chair 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.
On March 4, the committee “served document requests to 81 agencies, entities, and individuals believed to have information relevant to the investigation. Among the individuals the committee requested documents from are Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, Trump Org 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 (whom it interviewed on March 21), former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, and Trump associate and inaugural chair Tom Barrack. The committee received “tens of thousands” of documents by its March 18 deadline, according to its chair, Jerry Nadler (D–NY). Among the respondents: Barrack, Steve Bannon, and the National Rifle Association. But more than half of the targets still had not replied by April 3. On that day, the committee authorized subpoenas for former White House aides Bannon, Ann Donaldson, Hope Hicks, Donald McGahn, and Reince Priebus, per Politico. And on May 21, the committee did in fact subpoena Hicks and Donaldson. Attorneys for the Trump Organization, Don Jr., and Eric did not respond to Politico’s inquires if their clients planned to reply. The committee is considering making additional document requests, including to Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
On Feb. 6, Chair Adam Schiff (D–CA) said his committee would investigate links or coordination between the Russian government/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. Schiff hired a prosecutor experienced in combating Russian organized crime to lead the investigation.
On Feb. 10, Schiff said the committee would investigate Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, a major lender to the Trump Organization. On Jan. 24, the committee sent an inquiry to Deutsche Bank AG on its ties to Trump. On Feb. 28, an aide said the panel expects to interview Trump Org. 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. In closed-door testimony in March, Cohen claimed the president submitted a false insurance claim regarding a fresco in Trump Tower. Felix Sater, who was connected to the Trump Moscow project, was scheduled to testify in an open hearing on March 27, but that was postponed. Then he was scheduled to talk to the committee’s investigators on June 21, but did not show up.
The committee seeks to interview inauguration organizer Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.
On March 11, the committee requested documents on Trump’s businesses from Capital One; the bank “said it was already preserving documents but needs a subpoena in order to comply” per Politico. On April 15, that subpoena was issued. All told, the committee reportedly has subpoenaed nine banks for information about President Trump’s finances. President Trump, Don. Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and their businesses sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One on April 30, however, to prevent them from sharing financial records with Congress. Schiff said Deutsche Bank has been willing to cooperate with lawmakers. On May 3, the Trumps filed for a preliminary injunction to block the subpoenas. But judge Edgardo Ramos declined to issue that injunction on May 22, saying that the financial institutions can comply with the lawmakers’ request. The Trumps’ appealed that ruling on May 24. The lawmakers and Trumps agreed to refrain from enforcing the subpoenas until after the appellate court issues its ruling. The court announced it will expedite the briefing process, which will end on July 18, and hold a hearing held shortly thereafter.
Oversight and Reform
Chair Elijah Cummings’s (D–MD) staff “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 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 a decision to relocate FBI headquarters, which is across the street from the Trump Hotel D.C. And on April 12 Cummings wrote to the GSA again, this time requesting all monthly reports from the Trump Hotel D.C., information about liens on the hotel, correspondence between the Trump Org and GSA, and legal opinions regarding the Trump Org’s compliance with the lease. Cummings gave an April 26 deadline; staffers for the committee and Cummings have not replied to inquiries asking if GSA replied.
The committee also has requested 10 years of Trump’s financial records. On March 11, the committee requested documents on Trump’s businesses from Capital One; the bank “said it was already preserving documents but needs a subpoena in order to comply” per Politico. On April 12, Cummings notified committee members that he plans to subpoena Mazars USA, Trump’s accounting firm, for his financial statements. President Trump, the Trump Organization, and the Trump Hotel D.C. sued Cummings and Mazars USA on April 22 in an attempt to prevent the release of Trump’s financial records. Cummings postponed the subpoenas’ deadline while the courts address the president’s suit. On May 20, U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta denied the president’s motion. Trump appealed the next day and two days after that, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ judges agreed to fast track the case, with oral arguments scheduled for July 12. But without further relief, Mazars could start turning over documents as soon as next week. In a filing on June 10, Trump’s attorneys argued that the committee’s subpoena was invalid because “it is an effort to investigate alleged legal violations—power that is vested in the executive, not Congress.”
Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
Transportation committee Chair 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 GSA about its reversal of a decision to relocate FBI headquarters, which is across the street from the Trump Hotel D.C. NPR reported “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
On April 3, Chair Richard Neal (D–MA) requested six years of Trump’s personal tax returns, as well as the returns for eight of his businesses (including that of the trust that holds the president’s ownership stake in the D.C. hotel). After the IRS missed Neal’s deadline and then an extension, Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin said he’d make a decision whether or not to release the returns by May 6. He declined to do so. On May 10, the committee subpoenaed Mnuchin and IRS commissioner Charles Rettig, giving them a May 17 deadline to turn over Trump’s tax returns. Mnuchin again declined to comply. Neal suspected he’d know his next move by May 24, but earlier he had indicated he’ll take the issue to the federal courts.
The Oversight subcommittee held a 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 John Lewis (D–GA). Tax law experts testified.
Legal cases, current status (latest change, June 26, 2019)
D.C. and MD attorneys general’s emoluments lawsuit
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. 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 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 dismissing the claims against him in his “individual capacity to allow the claims against President Trump in his official capacity to move forward expeditiously.” (The AGs brought suit against Trump in his individual capacity after the judge suggested they do so.) Trump’s attorneys, on Dec. 21, opposed the motion to dismiss at the district level, saying the appeals court now has jurisdiction and accused the AGs of “gamesmanship.”
UPDATE 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. On April 30, Sullivan denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the suit. While the president’s attorneys have a supplemental brief due on May 28, on May 14 they filed a motion to stay the proceedings while they appeal Sullivan’s decision. A week later, the lawmakers opposed that motion. On June 25, Sullivan denied Trump’s motion to stay the proceedings pending appeal, paving the way for discovery to begin June 28 and last through Sept. 27.
CREW et. al’s emoluments lawsuit
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. Cork filed its first appellant brief on May 15, arguing “the District Court failed to recognize the evolving nature of the common law of unfair competition in the District of Columbia and erroneously treated the prior cases as if they were a series of statutes that Appellant had to satisfy to state a claim.” Attorneys for the president and his hotel requested a 31-day extension for filing their brief, with Cork’s consent, which the court granted on May 28. Trump’s brief is now due on July 15.
Employees’ class-action suit alleging racial discrimination
D.C. superior court (direct link not available, search for case 2017 CA 006517 B)
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 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, June 14, 2019)
❌BLT Prime and Benjamin Bar—nine violations on Aug. 10, 2018
❌Sushi Nakazawa—two violations on Aug. 10, 2018
✔️Banquet kitchen—no violations on May 16, 2019
✔️Pastry kitchen—one violations on May 16, 2019; it was corrected on site
✔️In-room dining—one violation on May 16, 2019; it was corrected on site
❌Northwest kitchen—three violations on May 16, 2019; two corrected on site
✔️Gift shop—no violations on May 7, 2018
✔️Employee cafeteria—no violations on May 16, 2019
Is the Trump Store selling swag that depicts the White House? (latest change, March 21, 2019)
One thing that (probably) has nothing to do with Trump’s businesses
In “Remarks by the Vice President and Canadian Ambassador Craft at a Swearing-in Ceremony,” the White House got Kelly Craft’s title wrong.
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