The Hotel Where America Shall Be Saved

The self-styled prophets who are assembling their flocks at the Trump International.

Exterior of the Trump International Hotel in D.C., photoshopped to be bathed in colorful, heavenly light.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by George Rose/Getty Images, Simon11uk/iStock/Getty Images, and NikkiZalewski/iStock/Getty Images.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington brought in just over $40 million last year, almost 10 percent of the revenue earned by the president’s company. It has become a favorite stop for Republicans and lobbyists, not to mention foreign officials. But to a subset of President Donald Trump’s most fervent followers, the hotel has become more than just a posh place to sleep and mingle; it’s something approaching a sacred space.

Lance Wallnau, an author and self-styled prophet, is the latest to announce a spiritual event at the hotel. Wallnau announced this month that he is headlining an “Extreme Dream Trip” over Labor Day. The motivational weekend promises a “Destiny Blueprint” for fulfillment and success, and Wallnau is promoting the setting as an auspicious one. “God chose THIS LOCATION at THIS TIME for a reason!” he writes on his website. He felt called to hold the event there, he says, because it is the “perfect place for this spiritual transaction and impartation.” He hosted a similar event at the hotel last year.

Wallnau is one of several entrepreneurial Trump supporters who have hosted prophecy-related events at Trump’s Washington hotel, which is located on Pennsylvania Avenue just a few blocks from the White House. In February of last year, a prayer and prophecy event called “The Turnaround” attracted 1,300 attendees who filled the hotel’s ballroom, according to the watchdog outlet Right Wing Watch. Dutch Sheets, a Colorado-based “prophet” who organized the event, explained to followers that the hotel is located between FBI headquarters and the Department of Justice, giving him a special perch from which to pray against agencies that “have tried to destroy the president.” Attendees were not required to stay at the hotel, but Sheets urged them to spring for a room at $375 a night, writing online that the venue has “prophetic significance” and that the hotel had gone out of its way to encourage the prayer gathering. (“We do not comment on any of our guests or groups, prospective or otherwise,” a representative for the hotel said in a statement.)

Though Sheets’ event took place almost 18 months ago, he has reminded his readers about it as recently as last month, suggesting a lasting supernatural connection to the president. He recently published a note from a correspondent who dreamed they were walking down Pennsylvania Avenue as the Trump Hotel conference let out and saw an angel emerging from the hotel. The angel proceeded to the Capitol, where he shouted, “America shall be saved!”, prompting members of Congress to fall to their knees in repentance.

In December, the founder of the D.C.-based Lamplighter Ministries, Jon Hamill, presided over another Trump-friendly prayer event at the hotel. Organizers had decamped to the hotel after losing access to their original venue, the ostensibly politically neutral Museum of the Bible. (Right Wing Watch reported that several speakers spun the emergency relocation as a fulfillment of prophecy.) The “Revolution 2018” event featured worship, prayer, and preaching. At one point, according to a report from Religion News Service, Hamill shouted, “In Jesus’ name, we declare the Deep State will not prevail!” Another speaker interrupted the proceedings to announce that he had seen Rudy Giuliani in the hotel atrium: “It just seemed like a sign from the Lord.”

Giuliani’s presence may have been a sign from the Lord, but it also wasn’t exactly a coincidence: Trump’s hotel is “the new town square in Donald Trump’s Washington,” as Time put it in a cover story on the hotel two summers ago. The hotel is so popular with diplomats and foreign officials that it is the subject of multiple overlapping lawsuits based on the notion that Trump is violating the Constitution by profiting from the property.

But the prophets drawn to the hotel don’t seem to be sucking up to Trump directly in exchange for favors. For them, the appeal is more spiritual. “For the people I met at Revolution 2018, the significance of the Trump Hotel went well beyond a convergence on policy goals in the administration,” said Katherine Stewart, who attended Lamplighter Ministries’ event in December and is the author of the forthcoming book The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism. “They see Trump as being divinely anointed, and that sacred aura clearly extends, in their minds, to his hotel.” (The three event hosts mentioned in this article did not respond to multiple requests for comment sent through their websites.)

Many of the religious leaders drawn to the hotel compare Trump to King Cyrus, a 6th century B.C. Persian emperor who is celebrated in the Book of Isaiah for freeing the Jews from their captors: “the model for a nonbeliever appointed by God as a vessel for the purposes of the faithful,” as an op-ed by Stewart in the New York Times summed it up last year. Since no one can plausibly claim Trump is a fully reformed Christian, the alternative is to see him as a flawed but blessed instrument of God’s will. “God even used pagan kings like Cyrus,” Sheets tweeted last year. “Obviously, He can use Donald Trump. And He is! Pray 4 our President!” This spring, Wallnau appeared on televangelist Jim Bakker’s show to hawk a $45 coin featuring an engraving of Trump and Cyrus.

Small objects like coins associated with prayer rituals are not unique to this wing of charismatic Christianity. But televangelists have also found them particularly useful as fundraising tools. Wallnau described the Cyrus coin as a “point of contact” between God and people praying for Trump. Paula White, a televangelist and favorite pastor of Trump’s, once offered her followers an anointed prayer cloth in exchange for an $1,144 donation; she, too, described the cloth as a “point of contact.” That religious tradition may help explain why being physically present in a Trump Hotel is significant to this portion of the president’s base. For this loose cohort of prayer warriors, the hotel seems to offer the opportunity not just to hobnob or celebrity-watch, but to touch the hem of Trump’s garment—to bask for a few days in his presence, in a building bearing his name.