According to the government watchdog group Public Citizen, numerous foreign governments, special interest groups, and Republican campaign committees spent money at properties owned by President Donald Trump, raising the specter of attempts to 'curry favor' with the president.
A lawyer for President-elect Donald Trump outlined a plan during the presidential transition that was meant to resolve concerns about conflicts of interest between his presidency and his businesses.
But in a report called "Presidency for Sale," Public Citizen found that Trump properties in Washington, Florida and elsewhere seem to have benefited from Trump's election as groups with something to gain from U.S. policy have paid to stay or dine there more than 60 times.
The president of Public Citizen, Robert Weissman, said it is difficult not to make certain assumptions about the ongoing situation:
"There is no way to escape the conclusion that these events are being held at the Trump properties as a way to curry favor with the president. It's just extraordinarily unlikely that these groups have an affinity for the Trump brand [that's] so great [that's] unrelated to the fact that the president happens to be named Trump."
Weissman also said that Saudi Arabia stands above the rest in terms of money spent, noting that the Saudis have undertaken "a full-fledged effort to seduce Trump and those close to him".
A public relations firm spent $270,000 on behalf of the Saudi government at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. on an undisclosed date, the report said, citing public documents and a USA Today article.
Other governments represented include Malaysia, the American Turkish Council and the Kuwait Embassy.
Republicans have gotten in on the action as well, to the tune of $305,000. Patrons include the infamous Sheriff David Clarke:
Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke's campaign for Senate spent more than $3,000 on lodging and food for its volunteers in the Trump International Hotel in D.C. in February, March and April, according to the report. Clarke ended up dropping out of the Wisconsin Senate race in July, but he has been rumored as a favorite for a future position in the Trump administration.
Other individuals and groups making use of Trump properties include:
- Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee
- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
- California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
- Private prison company GEO Group
- The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
To date, at least six lawsuits have been filed against the Trump International Hotel in D.C. and other Trump properties alleging conflicts of interest.
In one case, filed in late December, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington alleged that Trump's "business interests are creating countless conflicts of interest, as well as unprecedented influence by foreign governments." The case was dismissed in the Southern District of New York in December because of a lack of standing.