President Donald Trump chose a familiar venue for his first dinner out in Washington, D.C. since becoming president. The commander in chief surprised patrons when his motorcade arrived at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday and he proceeded to have dinner with his daughter Ivanka, her husband and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage.
Coming mere hours after Trump had said he was skipping the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the president made clear how little he thinks of the press by forcing the press pool to stay outside of the hotel. The only reason why we know who Trump was eating with was due to a tweet by Benny Johnson, a reporter for Independent Journal Review who happened to be at the Trump International Hotel.
Farage also posted a photo of the dinner on Twitter under the heading “Dinner with The Donald.”
Showing how the hotel is becoming a preferred spot for D.C. power players, Johnson said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was also having dinner with his wife there.
Beyond keeping the press in the dark, the dinner once again brings into focus how the commander in chief is a walking conflict of interest, and he doesn’t appear to have much interest in even trying to hide it. Trump’s D.C. hotel is in the Old Post Office, which was leased from the federal government. Under the terms of the lease: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.”
Even some Republican lawmakers have expressed possible concern about the terms of the lease. “His being both the landlord and the tenant is something that we’re curious what the GSA’s opinion of that is,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz told reporters earlier this month.
Trump refusing to divest from the hotel was one thing but now having dinner there opens him up to a host of new conflict of interest questions as it’d be difficult to argue that the chance of a glimpse at the commander in chief won’t help the hotel’s bottom line.