President Donald Trump‘s hotel in New York City earlier this year reversed a two-year trend of declining rental revenue after travelers with crown prince of Saudi Arabia booked rooms there, a new report said Friday.
The Trump International Hotel saw a 13-percent increase in rental revenue in the first three months of this year after several people accompanying Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stayed for five days in March, according to The Washington Post.
The article cited a letter from the hotel’s general manager, Prince Sanders, who noted that the Saudi prince himself had not stayed in the hotel because its suites were not large enough to accommodate him or other members of the royal family. But the bookings from people traveling with him were enough to increase the hotel’s revenue for the first financial quarter.
A spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington had no immediate comment when asked whether the Saudi government had paid for the rooms. The accommodations were used by “accompanying travelers” of the prince, as they were described in Sanders’ letter cited by The Post.
A spokeswoman for Trump Internatioal Hotel said, “The uptick in business specific to Trump International Hotel & Tower New York in March was due to the compression in New York driven by the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to the City. This period brought compression to all of the hotels in the luxury set.”
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, on the heels of The Post report, told CNBC that the news is “just another piece of evidence that Donald Trump is violating the nation’s original anti-corruption law: he’s getting payments from foreign governments.”
“Everybody in the country has an interest in being protected from the president prioritizing his bottom line over our interest as a country,” Frosh said.
Frosh said that The Post’s report about the bookings at Trump’s hotel in New York makes clear that “there’s so much money being paid it would be unusual if government bureaucrats [from Saudi Arabia] were paying the bill themselves personally.”
Frosh and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine last week won a big victory in federal court in Maryland, where they are suing Trump for alleging violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
That clause, which bars federal office holders from receiving any present or emolument from “any King, Prince or foreign state,” means a president should not earning money from foreign governments at his various properties and businesses.
The judge in that case last week let the case continue heading to trial, over the objections of the Justice Department. Judge Peter Messitte said the clause covers not just gifts from foreign states, but also business transactions.
The Washington Post reported last week that the ruling seemed to be the first time a federal judge had interpreted those constitutional provisions to apply to a current president.
Trump previously has called the case “totally without merit.” But before taking office, he announced he would “donate all profits from foreign governments’ patronage of his hotels and similar businesses during his presidential term to the U.S. Treasury.” The Post noted that the Trump Organization this year announced that donation for 2017 as $151,470, but did not detail what foreign governments were the source of those profits, nor the amount they had paid Trump’s businesses.
The case pending in Maryland only relates to money Trump is earning from foreign governments who take rooms at his hotel in Washington, D.C, which last year received $270,000 in Saudi government money, according to lobbying records cited by The Post. Other foreign government officials likewise have stayed there.
“Some diplomats have stated openly that they are doing it because they think it will have an impact on Trump’s decisions” as president, Frosh said.
The Maryland attorney general said he still believes that if his state and the District of Columbia win their case against Trump, the decision would empower other plaintiffs “in New York or Florida or wherever to challenge payments that he’s receiving” from his businesses in those other locations.