This Week in Conflicts: Saudi-Funded Lobbyists Pay for Rooms at Trump Hotel, Trump Jr.’s Lettuce Company and Subpoenas Issued in Emoluments Lawsuit


President Donald J. Trump, joined by Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman, shows informational boards showing how much business the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia generates int he United States economy at their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Image Credit: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This week, we are learning Saudi-funded lobbyists paid for rooms for military veterans at President Donald Trump’s Washington D.C. hotel, Donald Trump Jr. invested in a hydroponic lettuce company while the company’s co-chairman sought federal support for other business interests and subpoenas are beginning to be issued in the emoluments lawsuit against the president.

Trump hotel Washington D.C. (Image Credit: Flickr user Maxence)

Saudi Lobbyists Fund Rooms at Trump Hotel

According to the Washington Post, lobbyists representing the Saudi government paid for an estimated 500 nights at President Trump’s Washington D.C. hotel within a month of President Trump’s election.

Using documents and information from conversations with organizers the Washington Post learned the lobbyists were reserving the hotel rooms to provide U.S. military veterans a free place to stay so they could help lobby against a law the Saudis opposed. “At first, lobbyists for the Saudis put the veterans up in Northern Virginia,” the Post reports. “Then, in December 2016, they switched most of their business to the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. In all, the lobbyists spent more than $270,000 to house six groups of visiting veterans at the Trump hotel, which Trump still owns.”

The lobbyists told the Post they chose the hotel because of the discounted rate offered and not to “curry favor” with the president.

Donald Trump, Jr. speaking with supporters of his father, Donald Trump, at a campaign rally at the Sun Devil Fitness Center at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. (Image Credit: Flickr user Gage Skidmore)

Trump Jr.’s Lettuce Company

Donald Trump, Jr., the president’s eldest son, invested in a hydroponic lettuce company whose co-chairman sought financial support from the federal government for his other business interests, according to ProPublica.

In the latest episode of its Trump, Inc. podcast the news organization details how Texas money manager Gentry Beach and Trump Jr. worked together on President Trump’s campaign and collaborated on investments. The two, according to ProPublica, also attended college together and are godfather to one of each other’s sons.

“Since Trump’s election, Beach has attempted to obtain federal assistance for projects in Asia, the Caribbean and South America, and he has met or corresponded with top officials in the National Security Council, Interior Department and Overseas Private Investment Corporation,” ProPublica reports.

The lettuce company is called Eden Green Technology and according to current and former business associates, Beach has touted his connections to the first family to impress possible business partners. Trump Jr. is an executive vice president of the Trump Organization, President Trump’s company, and one of two trustees of the trust holding the president’s assets.

Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C., September 2016. (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr user Ted Eytan)

Subpoenas Issued in Emoluments Lawsuit

According to ABC News, subpoenas have been issued in the emoluments lawsuit brought against President Trump by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C.

“The subpoenas, issued Tuesday, seek information about expenditures at the Trump Hotel in Washington from more than a dozen Trump Organization-affiliated companies and five federal agencies,” according to ABC News.

The lawsuit, filed by the D.C. and Maryland attorneys general, claims the President is violating the foreign emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clause bans public officials from receiving gifts and payments from foreign governments without the approval of Congress. The attorneys general argue that not divesting from his business, President Trump and the Trump Organization, are profiting from payments from foreign governments. The lawsuit specifically calls out payments and business associated with the Trump International Hotel in D.C. The plaintiffs also allege Maryland and D.C. companies are losing out on potential business because people are choosing Trump-owned properties, instead of local businesses.

Other information has been requested from “18 entities that compete with the hotel,” according to ABC News.

A Baltimore Sun opinion piece explains how Marylanders benefit from this lawsuit being pursued, saying “ certain Maryland hoteliers and related hospitality businesses lose out when foreign governments book the Trump Hotel to curry presidential favor.”

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project provides a free, searchable database detailing President Donald J. Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as President of the United States. The project also documents news coverage of these potential conflicts. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, explore our database, and learn more about the project. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, the database will be updated. To help with those updates, get involved by contacting us here. You can also contact us if you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking.

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning freelance journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She produces content focused on government accountability, public access to information and freedom of expression issues. She’s also helping to rebuild trust between newsrooms and the public through the Trusting News project.