Living It Up At The Hotel Presidential, Such A Lovely Place: On the 27th day of the government shutdown, national parks, many DC tourist attractions, museums, libraries, historical buildings remain closed. One historical attraction, however, has remained operational, open for tours and staffed by rangers from the National Park Service. It’s the clock tower atop the Trump International Hotel. The building, built in 1899, used to be part of the Old Post Office. The property is owned by the General Services Administration (GSA), which leased it to the Trump Organization in 2013. Trump renovated it, and in 2016, right before the election, the Trump International Hotel opened for business.
Immediately, constitutional questions arose about whether Trump, as president, could continue to gain financially from his interest in the hotel. The US Constitution’s Emoluments clauses say for a president to benefit from a private business while in office is unconstitutional. Even the building’s lease says: “no elected official of the Government…shall be admitted to share any part of this lease, or any benefit that may arise therefrom.” But according to the report released Wednesday by the Inspector General of the GSA, agency attorneys who reviewed Trump’s lease in 2016 decided to simply ignore the constitutional issues.
Four months after Trump took office the government of Saudi Arabia rented 500 rooms at the hotel. Later that year, Maine’s Republican governor, Paul LePage, was in DC lobbying the Trump administration to rescind a national park designation in his state. LePage spent four nights at Trump’s hotel, where rooms start at $300 a night. The hotel has been patronized by other groups with lobbying interests in Washington: foreign embassies, industry associations, religious groups.
Last April telecom giant T-Mobile announced a $26 billion megadeal, a merger with Sprint that would more than double T-Mobile’s value and give it a huge chunk of the cellphone market. Only one thing was needed — approval from the Trump administration. The day after the announcement, nine of T-Mobile’s top executives — including its chief operating officer, chief technology officer, chief strategy officer, chief financial officer and larger-than-life chief executive, John Legere — booked rooms at the Trump International Hotel. The visits by T-Mobile executives alone are probably worth tens of thousands of dollars to the Trump Organization, the president’s company, which he still owns, and which, as one House member put it “has enabled the President to line his pockets.”
We Struck (A Deal On) Oil: BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 killed 11 workers, dumped over 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and became the worst environmental catastrophe in US history. Rules put in place after the disaster beefed up regulation of oil companies. Now, years after investigators found that lax regulatory oversight was one of the leading culprits behind the disaster, President Trump plans to relax those rules to give BP and other big oil companies more power to self-regulate their offshore drilling operations. Two separate rules, one on oil production safety systems that forced companies to get independent verification of the safety measures and equipment they use on offshore platforms, and one requiring professional engineers to certify the safety of drilling equipment for new wells, have already been deep-sixed. (Guardian)
– “Trump’s war on science: how the US is putting politics above evidence:Experts say the administration is blatantly dismantling proven programs, and the consequences could be dire” (Guardian)
– “At confirmation hearing, Trump’s EPA pick vows to advance a deregulatory agenda: Andrew Wheeler has served as the agency’s acting administrator since July. The Senate will decide whether to confirm him as its next leader.” (WaPo)