The Slatest

The Trump Organization Tried to Massively Overcharge Trump’s Own Inaugural Committee for Hotel Space, LOL

A crowd of people wearing suits stands on steps under a TRUMP INTERNATIONAL HOTEL sign as a parade passes by.
The Trump International Hotel on Jan. 20, 2017 during inaugural activities.
Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images

The eleven-billionth Trump corruption story of the last 48 hours involves the Trump inaugural committee (which was a freestanding non-profit entity that raised money from corporations and rich folks) getting fleeced by the Trump Organization’s D.C. hotel:

During the planning, Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s eldest daughter and a senior executive with the Trump Organization, was involved in negotiating the price the hotel charged the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee for venue rentals. A top inaugural planner emailed Ivanka and others at the company to “express my concern” that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces, worrying of what would happen “when this is audited.”

That’s from ProPublica and WNYC, which obtained emails between Ivanka, inaugural official Rick Gates (who’s since pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators in another matter being investigated by Robert Mueller), and inaugural event planner Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Wolkoff, a friend of Melania Trump’s, was flabbergasted at the price that the Trump hotel had quoted for potential use of its event space—and her previous experience includes events like the Met Gala mega-celebfest, so it’s not like she’s a Puritan when it comes to luxe party spending. The Wolkoff email that ProPublica obtained, moreover, was sent after Ivanka had already interceded to lower the Trump Org’s proposed price—and Wolkoff thought the new price was still twice as high as it should be.

“Please take into consideration that when this is audited it will become public knowledge,” she wrote, noting that other locations would be provided to the inaugural committee for free. … “I understand that compared to the original pricing this is great but we should look at the whole context,” Wolkoff wrote, suggesting a day rate of $85,000, less than half of the Trump hotel’s offer.

Sadly we don’t know what the actual “original pricing” proposal was, but I would guess that it was somewhere in the neighborhood of one billion dollars per second per square foot, plus Covering Quotidian Objects in Gold surcharges as needed. (The inaugural committee says it did conduct an audit, but hasn’t released the results.)

ProPublica notes that it’s a violation of IRS rules for a private business (the Trump Organization is privately held, mostly by Donald Trump himself) to overcharge a non-profit with which it’s affiliated. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan is investigating whether any inaugural spending or fundraising activities violated corruption laws; giving a politician money personally in exchange for official favors is bribery. (At least two previous reports have connected Trump administration policy proposals with specific inaugural donors or fundraisers.)