Stay to play: Inside the sordid history of Trump's DC hotel - 2020-08-27
Last fall, the Trump organization dropped an October surprise: It was thinking of selling its luxury DC hotel, a towering, granite symbol of Trump's takeover of official Washington—and of his unprecedented, for-profit presidency. The timing was notable. It was nearly three years to the day that the Trumps used golden scissors to snip the ribbon on the just-renovated property, housed in a historic, Romanesque Revival–style federal building that had served as DC's main post office until World War 1. By contract with its landlord, the General Services Administration, this anniversary was the first chance the Trumps had to offload their lease. The proposed price tag: $500 million, one of the highest amounts per room that any hotel has ever commanded.
But why put the hotel on the block now? "People are objecting to us making so much money on the hotel, and therefore we may be willing to sell," the president's son Eric told the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story. The hotel had become known as one of Trump's most brazen conflicts of interest. Yet Eric's rationale didn't add up. By his logic, the Trump Organization hoped to halt ethical questions over the hotel by creating a gigantic new conflict of interest, since the motives of any potential buyer would be in question.
A glossy sales brochure that CNN obtained put forth another reason: The hotel wasn't earning its full potential. As if anticipating questions about why the hotel wasn't raking in more, the sales pitch claimed the Trumps had lost out on $9 million in revenue in 2019 by not seeking business from foreign governments. (Trump pledged to donate profits from foreign government business to the Treasury when, in 2017, he refused to fully relinquish control of his business empire.) "Tremendous upside potential exists for a new owner to fully capitalize on government related business," the brochure stated. It wasn't just here that revenues were lackluster. They were coming up short at a number of Trump businesses—even before the pandemic hit.