The Trump International Hotel in Manhattan, whose revenues had been declining for two years, suddenly experienced a 13 percent spike the first three months of this year due to a “last-minute visit to New York by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” General Manager Prince Sanders wrote in a letter in May that was obtained by the Post.
The income underscores concerns about the president’s apparent conflict of interest as his company collects increased private revenue linked to the same foreign leaders with whom he and other members of the White House negotiate on behalf of the public. Critics say foreign expenditures at private Trump properties can sweeten American deals — for the president — that the nations are seeking.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and members of the royal family did not stay at Trump’s hotel during their New York trip because suites weren’t large enough. But “we were able to accommodate many of the accompanying travelers” due to “our close industry relationships,” Sanders wrote in the letter, the Post reported.
Neither the Trump Organization nor the Saudi Embassy responded to Post requests to reveal who paid the expenses.
Which foreign interests spend money at Trump’s properties — and how much — is largely secret.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh told CNBC that Trump’s New York hotel situation 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.”
A federal court last month gave the go-ahead to a lawsuit by Frosh and the attorney general for the District of Columbia, arguing that the president is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause. The clause bars federal officeholders from receiving financial or material benefits from foreign governments or domestic government bodies in order to avoid conflicts of interest when federal officials decide public policy. That suit was filed against Trump’s Washington hotel, which has catered events by and hosted visitors from foreign governments, including Kuwait, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The Saudi government spent $270,000 at the Washington hotel last year, according to filings by a lobbying firm.
“It’s a historic decision,” Frosh told HuffPost after the ruling. “The judge says that the emoluments are broad anti-corruption clauses and can be enforced in the courts.”
The framers of the Constitution wanted to “make sure the president would put the country above himself” and his own private profits, the attorneys general argued.
A spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood reiterated an earlier announcement that she has been conducting an investigation to determine if Trump had violated the emoluments clause at his New York businesses.
The relationship between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia has been particularly close. Trump’s first trip abroad as president was to Saudi Arabia. In a surprise move, Trump initially praised a blockade of longtime ally Qatar because the Saudis wanted it. Earlier this year, Trump approved a $1 billion arms sale to the Saudis.
The New York Times reported earlier this year that Donald Trump Jr. met in August 2016 with an envoy representing the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who offered to help the Trump presidential campaign.