WASHINGTON – The Trump International Hotel recently took in about $270,000 in payments tied to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the country fights to roll back a U.S. terrorism law, according to newly filed lobbying reports.
The spending, which covered lodging, catering and parking expenses, was disclosed in Justice Department filings last week by MSL Group Americas, a public relations firm. The filings detailed the work the firm engaged in between Oct. 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017 on behalf of the Saudis, Bahrain and other foreign governments.
In a statement Monday night, Trump Organization officials said they would donate any profits from the transactions at the end of the year.
The disclosure of Saudi spending, however, could spark fresh debate about President Trump’s decision to retain ownership of his real-estate and branding empire while serving in the White House. Trump turned over management of his companies to his adult sons and a veteran Trump Organization executive but still can benefit financially from his business interests.
Last month, Trump visited Saudi Arabia, the first stop on the first foreign trip of his presidency.
The firm reported paying more than $190,200 for lodging, $78,204 for catering and roughly $1,600 for parking at the Trump International Hotel in Washington — part of a larger campaign by the Saudis that brought U.S. military veterans to the nation’s capital to lobby against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act or JASTA. The Daily Caller first reported on the hotel payments.
Last year, Congress passed a bill over President Obama’s veto that would allow families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any alleged role in the plot. The Gulf nation has denied any role in the attacks and is lobbying to ease the law’s provisions.
Democrats on Capitol Hill and ethics watchdogs have argued that Trump’s continued ownership of his businesses could lead to a violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which bars foreign payments to U.S. officials without congressional approval.
White House officials referred questions about the Saudi payments to the Trump Organization.
Before he took office, Trump pledged to donate foreign profits from his hotels to the U.S. Treasury. However, the Trump Organization is not trying to comprehensively identify all foreign profits to its hotel business, according to a company policy document recently provided to the House Oversight Committee.
“To fully and completely identify all patronage at our properties by customer type is impractical in the service industry and putting forth a policy that requires all guests to identify themselves would impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand,” the Trump Organization’s document said.