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WASHINGTON (AP) - At a circular booth in the middle of the Trump International Hotel`s balcony restaurant, President Donald Trump dined on his steak - well-done, with ketchup - while chatting with British
Brexit politician Nigel Farage. A few days later, major Republican donors Doug Deason and Doug Manchester, in town for the president`s address to Congress, sipped coffee at the hotel with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. After Trump`s speech, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin returned to his Washington residence - the hotel - and strode past the gigantic American flag in the soaring lobby.
With his tiny terrier tucked under an arm, Mnuchin stepped into an elevator with reality TV star and hotel guest Dog the Bounty Hunter, who particularly enjoyed the Trump-stamped chocolates in his room. FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2016 file photo, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, together with his family, from left, Eric Trump, Melania Trump, Tiffany Trump and Ivanka Trump, waves part of a ribbon after cutting the ribbon during the grand opening of Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Trump`s $200 million hotel inside the federally owned Old Post Office building has become the place to see, be seen, drink, network, even live, for the still-emerging Trump set. It`s a rich environment for lobbyists and anyone hoping to rub elbows with
politicos, despite the veil of ethics questions that hangs overhead. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta,
File) It was just another week at the new political capital of the nation`s capital.
The $200 million hotel inside the federally owned Old Post Office building has become the
place to see, be seen, drink, network - even live - for the still-emerging Trump set. It`s a rich environment for lobbyists and anyone hoping to rub elbows with Trump-related politicos - despite a veil of ethics questions that hangs overhead. "I`ve never come through this lobby and not seen someone I know," says Deason, a Dallas-based fundraiser for Trump`s election campaign. For Republican Party players, it`s the only place to stay.
"I can tell you this hotel will be the most successful hotel in Washington, D.C.," says Manchester, adding that
he would know because he has developed the second-largest Marriott and second-largest Hyatt in the world. Manchester says Trump`s hotel will attract people based on its location near the White House and Congress, the quality renovation and the management team. Then there`s also the access. Although Trump says he is not involved in the day-to-day operations of his businesses, he retains a financial interest in them.
A stay at the hotel gives someone trying to win over Trump on a policy issue or political decision a potential chit. That`s what concerns ethics lawyers who had wanted Trump to sell off his companies as previous presidents have done. "President Trump is in effect inviting people and companies and countries to channel money to him through the hotel," said Kathleen Clark, a former ethics lawyer for the District of Columbia and a law professor at Washington University in St.
Louis. She said the "pay to play" danger is even greater than it would be if people wanted to donate to a campaign to influence a politician`s thinking. Spending money at a Trump property "is about personally enriching Donald Trump, who happens to be the president of the United States.
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