Saudi-Funded Lobbyists Paid For 500 Rooms At Trump Washington Hotel Days After 2016 Election
Lobbyists who represented Saudi Arabia’s government booked several blocks of rooms at President Donald Trump‘s hotel in Washington, D.C., less than one month after the 2016 election, it was reported Wednesday.
According to The Washington Post, the lobbyists paid for around 500 nights at the hotel over the course of three months. The newspaper cited documents and trip organizers in their report.
The mass reservations were reportedly part of a controversial effort to offer U.S. military veterans a free trip to the capital. However, the veterans were ultimately sent to Capitol Hill to lobby in opposition to a law the Saudis were against. Lobbyists reportedly paid more than $270,000 to give rooms to six veterans groups at the Trump hotel in Washington, which the president continues to own.
The lobbyists’ reservations have also sparked two federal lawsuits that allege Trump violated the Constitution by accepting improper payments from foreign nations’ governments.
Documents reveal the average cost for a one-night stay at Trump’s D.C. hotel was $768. The Saudi-funded lobbyists claim they selected that hotel because of room availability and rate discount offers, and not as a way to ingratiate themselves with the then-newly-elected president.
“Absolutely not. It had nothing to do with that. Not one bit,” stated Michael Gibson, a Maryland-based political operative who reportedly served as a trip organizer.
This scandal marks the Trump administration’s latest revelation of holding close ties to the Saudi government. Trump has received much criticism from lawmakers, the press and foreign leaders in recent weeks over his statement regarding Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman‘s alleged involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Post writer and U.S. resident who was killed at his country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October.
“Maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t,” Trump said of the Crown Prince’s alleged order to have Khashoggi assassinated. Incidentally, the controversy came just as the U.S. government was brokering a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which Congress urged Trump to stop.
A Washington-based firm named Qorvis/MSLGroup — which has represented Saudi Arabia’s government in the U.S. for many years — also paid the organizers of the trips offered to veterans to D.C., the Post reported. The company has not commented on this issue, and neither has the Saudi Embassy.
Attorneys general in Maryland and Washington subpoenaed 13 Trump-owned businesses and 18 other organizations Tuesday as part of an attempt to search for evidence of foreign spending at the Trump hotel in D.C.