In this first tumultuous summer of the Trump administration, the Trump hotel in Washington DC has cemented its status as a gathering spot for prominent conservatives and a place for the president’s supporters to see, be seen and curry favor with people in power, one $24 chocolate cigar at a time.
The hotel — a melting pot for Trump family members, Trump surrogates, tourists, YouTube celebrities, journalists and the occasional white nationalist — has earned that status in no small part because it is home to the only Washington restaurant that President Trump visits. His company also earns a cut — about $20 million over 15 months, according to financial disclosure forms — which has outraged ethics experts and led to various lawsuits, including one filed in January against the Trump administration by a group of lawyers. They accused the president of violating the Constitution by allowing his hotels and other businesses to accept payments from foreign governments.
“It’s the same old cesspool,” said Richard W. Painter, one of the lawyers in the group and an ethics counsel in the George W. Bush White House. “It’s just that now the president is getting a cut of the revenue.” Several visits in August by reporters for The New York Times confirmed that some of the swamp’s most prominent Republicans come out at night and gather in the lobby of the 263-room hotel, conveniently located on Pennsylvania Avenue five blocks from the White House. Mr. Painter and other ethics experts say that is the gist of the problem — the hotel’s political appeal has turned it into one giant lily pad where tourists, lobbyists and foreign leaders can schmooze and win favor with Trump loyalists.
Stephen Miller, a senior White House adviser, dropped by this month with Nigel Farage, the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party, according to a local tipsheet curated by Politico. Among those who spotted the pair was Evan McClaren, a white nationalist who was at the hotel with Richard B. Spencer, another white nationalist. “Place to be,” Mr. McClaren wrote on Twitter of the sighting.
Mr. McClaren declined to answer phone calls or emails asking about his trip to the hotel. He said he was too busy planning a rally in Charlottesville, Va. NYT
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