Washington: Donald Trump, one month from taking the oath of office to become president, continues to draw new business from foreign leaders who book rooms and meeting space at his District of Columbia hotel.
The latest example is the Kuwaiti embassy, which plans to hold its National Day celebration for about 600 guests at the hotel on February 25.
Other foreign leaders who have held events at the hotel, which opened in the autumn in the Old Post Office pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue, have come under fire and sometimes faced protests for doing business with Trump, who during his campaign suggested banning Muslims from entering the US, engendered the support of white nationalists and made comments disparaging Mexican immigrants.
Kuwaiti Ambassador Salem Al Sabah said he felt no pressure to hold his event at the hotel and had not been contacted by the Trump Organisation, contradicting aspects of a report on Monday from the liberal website ThinkProgress. In previous years, Al Sabah and his wife, Rima, a power couple on the Washington dinner party circuit, have held the embassy’s National Day celebration at the Four Seasons in Georgetown.
“I do not know President-elect Trump. Or his people. No one has contacted me about moving the event,” said Al Sabah. “It was solely done with the intention of providing our guests with a new venue. We have been holding the event at the Four Seasons for years. There is a new hotel in town and we thought we would give it a try.”
Besides, this would not be the first move from the Four Seasons. Last year, Al Sabah said the event was held at the Newseum.
The ThinkProgress report said Kuwait “cancelled” a contract at the Four Seasons for the event “under political pressure.” Al Sabah called the characterisation “totally wrong and totally false.” He said he had asked the Four Seasons to reserve that time but hadn’t broken any contract and decided on the Trump hotel after hearing positive reviews from others who held events there, just as he had done with the Newseum last year.
“I heard some positive feedback from those who attended events there. Nobody contacted me. Nobody pressured me at all,” he said.
Spokeswomen for the Trump Organisation and the Four Seasons declined to comment.
Al Sabah acknowledged that holding the event at Trump’s hotel was likely to draw scrutiny. But he said his event had “had nothing to do with anything else other than creating an exciting event for our guests.”
Previously, the Kingdom of Bahrain held its National Day event at the hotel and Jewish leaders joined the Embassy of Azerbaijan in hosting a Hanukkah Party at the hotel. Washington travel experts say Trump’s hotel has begun to draw enough business that it has begun affecting competitors. Trump hotel executives even hired the diplomatic sales manager from the Four Seasons.
To avoid potential conflicts, a wide range of ethics experts from both Republican and Democratic administrations have called on Trump to separate himself from businesses by doing more than simply putting them under control of his grown children, Don Jr. and Eric. Trump himself has not yet detailed what will happen to his businesses once he takes over as president.
Unless Trump makes changes, his Washington hotel lease could trigger two legal issues when he enters office on January 20: a provision in the lease barring elected officials from having a stake in the project and the “emoluments” clause of the Constitution barring gifts or profits from foreign leaders.
Trump backer Newt Gingrich suggested instead in an interview with NPR Monday that Congress rewrite ethics laws to accommodate the Trumps. “We’ve never seen this kind of wealth in the White House, and so traditional rules don’t work,” he told talk show host Diane Rehm.