D.C. Attorney General Sues Trump Hotel Over $1M Inauguration Bill
Attorney General Karl Racine filed suit in D.C. Superior Court Wednesday alleging the committee overpaid for a ballroom booking at the Trump International Hotel, a violation of its nonprofit status, the Washington Post reports.
The 18-page lawsuit, which names the inauguration committee, The Trump Organization and the entity that controls the Pennsylvania Avenue hotel as defendants, alleges the committee spent more than $1M at the hotel during a four-day period around Trump's January 2017 inauguration. The committee spent $175K per day for the hotel ballroom and more than $300K in food and beverage costs.
The lawsuit includes examples of communications among officials working on the inauguration, including one event planner who raised concerns that the hotel was charging at least double the market rate for ballroom space at comparable D.C. hotels.
Because the inauguration committee is a nonprofit entity, Racine's lawsuit argues the payments constituted an unlawful abuse of nonprofit funds intended to enrich the Trump family.
"District law requires nonprofits to use their funds for their stated public purpose, not to benefit private individuals or companies," Racine said in a release. "In this case, we are seeking to recover the nonprofit funds that were improperly funneled directly to the Trump family business."
The Trump Organization responded in a statement to the Washington Post, calling the lawsuit a "PR Stunt."
"The rates charged by the hotel were completely in line with what anyone else would have been charged for an unprecedented event of this enormous magnitude and were reflective of the fact that hotel had just recently opened, possessed superior facilities and was centrally located on Pennsylvania Avenue,” The Trump Organization told the Post.
The 263-room hotel, a renovation of the historic Old Post Office Building, opened in 2016, two months before Trump was elected president. Trump refused to divest himself from his business upon taking office, bringing the payments to the hotel under increased scrutiny.
The Trump Organization is now looking to sell the property, bringing on JLL as a broker in October. Eric Trump told The Wall Street Journal its decision to sell came in part because of the scrutiny it has faced over payments to the hotel, including multiple lawsuits and investigations from government officials and ethics watchdogs.
This is the second lawsuit Racine has filed over payments to the hotel. In June 2017, he and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh jointly sued Trump for accepting payments from foreign governments, which they said violated the U.S. Constitution's emoluments clause. The suit was dismissed last summer but was then revived in October, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agreed to rehear the case, the Post reported.