Trump Organization considers selling DC hotel besieged by scandals


The scandal-plagued Trump Hotel, located blocks from the White House, may soon be up for sale.

The Trump Hotel, which is at the center of more than one lawsuit and a congressional investigation, may soon be up for sale, according to a Friday report from the Wall Street Journal.

The move to sell the rights to the hotel "is motivated partly by criticism that the Trumps are flouting ethics laws by profiting from the property," the Journal reports. Eric Trump, one of two of Donald Trump's children in charge of the Trump Organization, told the Journal that the Trump Organization is always willing to explore options.

"People are objecting to us making so much money on the hotel, and therefore we may be willing to sell," he said in a statement.

While the building is owned by the U.S. government, the Trump Organization holds a lease on the property for the next 90 or so years.

Since Trump took office, the Trump Hotel in D.C. and other Trump properties have been at the center of controversy. Contrary to Eric Trump's claim, objections from critics of the Trump Hotel are unrelated to the level of profits but the fact that Donald Trump is profiting at all from the venture.

The emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which Trump recently described as "phony," forbids the president from accepting any gifts or income from foreign leaders. Trump, who has not divested from his private business holdings, claims that an annual check from the Trump organization to the U.S. Treasury of all profits from foreign governments is enough to remain within the bounds of the Constitution.

Constitutional scholars disagree.

"The Constitution doesn't prevent the president only from taking profits from foreign government payments, it prevents him from taking any foreign government payments unless he obtains Congress's consent first," Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a constitutional scholar, wrote in an August Washington Post op-ed on the subject. Trump "has not obtained congressional permission to keep either the net profits or the gross proceeds collected from various governments that have paid for Trump hotel stays and thrown parties at his clubs and restaurants."

Beyond the constitutional issues, the hotel is also at the center of lawsuits and investigations.

Restaurant owners and high-end hoteliers are suing Donald Trump because they are competing for the same business, yet customers may opt to frequent Trump-branded properties, such as the Trump Hotel, in order to curry favor with the Trump administration. The attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., are pursuing a separate lawsuit claiming Trump is illegally profiting from the Trump Hotel in D.C.

Congress, meanwhile, is investigating the Trump Hotel to see if foreign governments are staying there in an attempt to influence Trump. "We deserve to know exactly how much President Trump is profiting from foreign governments looking to curry favor by booking rooms at his hotel," Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) told Roll Call.

Furthermore, Eric Trump's statement about massive profits is at odds with his father's public statements. The elder Trump claims that being president "is costing me a fortune." Without providing any evidence, Trump said he is losing $5 billion.

Trump could provide documentation backing up his claims by releasing his taxes. Despite promises to do so, Trump refuses to release them publicly, and has thus far refused to comply with a demand from Congress to hand release them privately.

According to the Journal, the Trump Organization is hoping to rake in $500 million off the sale.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.