Pence was lobbied in Trump's lobby

Lobbyist for pro-Armenian political group chats up Pence in Trump Hotel’s lobby

Last night the head lobbyist for a pro-Armenian political organization promoted his group’s causes during a conversation with Vice President Mike Pence in the lobby of the Trump Hotel D.C.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) claims to be “the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization.” While it appears Pence was in the process of entering or leaving an event at the hotel when the conversation occurred, it apparently lasted long enough for ANCA’s government affairs director, Raffi Karakashian, to bring up both America’s need to better to remember the Armenian genocide and protecting Christians and other at-risk populations in the Middle East.

Last night marks the second time in two months the president or vice president has engaged in foreign-policy discussions in the Trump Hotel D.C.’s lobby. This January, President Trump told Ilham Ehmed of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the Kurdish fighters in Syria, “Don’t worry, I love the Kurds.”

A spokesperson for the vice president did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the ANCA’s account of the conversation and share what brought the vice president to his boss’s hotel in the first place. (Pence’s Great America Committee PAC has spent at least $160,605.60 at the Trump Hotel D.C.)

Executive director: Clean energy fly-in picked Trump Hotel D.C. because it got a great rate (which it did)

Wednesday’s 1100 Pennsylvania reported that Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions’ D.C. fly-in held a reception at the Trump Hotel D.C., with Rep. David Rouzer (R–NC) stopping by.

Turns out the group was staying there too—though not out of political motivations, but simply because the rate it received was the lowest of the three it solicited, according to CRES’s executive director.

“We’re a nonprofit group, so staying at a luxury hotel is not necessarily the plan,” said Heather Reams, who heads the group with a mission to “engage Republican policymakers and the public about commonsense, conservative solutions to address our nation’s need for reliable energy.”

A broker accessible via CRES’s American Express account solicited bids on behalf of the group from the Liaison Capitol Hill, Hyatt Place Washington D.C./National Mall, and the Trump Hotel D.C. According to Reams, the Trump Hotel D.C. came back with the cheapest rate: $339 a night, $10 less than the Hyatt. It also required the group spend less money at its planned reception than what the other hotels mandated (the Liaison and Hyatt Place are nice enough but decidedly downmarket from "the “#onlyfivestarhoteldowntownDC”).

“They [the hotels] didn’t know it would be a Republican organization or anything,” Reams said. “It was through a broker.”

In addition to Rouzer, Reams said she thinks some other members of Congress mingled in the lobby with fly-in attendees, many of whom had preexisting relationships with the lawmakers. She also said administration staffers from EPA and the Department of Energy came by to meet people interested in clean energy from other parts of the country.

“This was our first fly-in,” Reams said. “It certainly helped having a nice hotel for people to stay. For people around the country, knowing a Trump Hotel is attractive. But really, totally price driven.”

Other noteworthy sightings

The deputy chief of staff at the Peace Corps, Matt McKinney, returned to the Trump Hotel D.C., this time with more friends.

Another picture from the special event with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago this past weekend surfaced. It includes

  • major GOP donor, Fox News advertiser, and Trump business regular, Mike “The My Pillow Guy” Lindell (left)

  • policy advisor for the pro-Trump nonprofit America First Policies and Trump business regular, Martha Boneta (center)

  • the president of the pro-Trump Middle Eastern Women’s Coalition and Trump business regular, Rabia Kazan (right)

The president of lobbying firm the Da Vinci Group, Mark Smith, a Trump Hotel D.C. regular, was back and ran into another lobbyist. It was Jeff Morehouse of ClearPath, whose “mission is to develop and advance conservative policies that accelerate clean energy innovation.”

Other Trump Organization news

House investigations, current status (latest changes, March 15, 2019)

  • Financial ServicesSent an inquiry to Deutsche Bank AG on its ties to Trump, according to the bank on Jan. 24. On March 1, chair Rep. Maxine Waters (D–CA) said that the bank is cooperating with her committee and that staffers from the panel have met with bank employees in New York.

  • Foreign Affairs—Chair Rep. Elliot Engel (D–NY) “plans to investigate whether President Donald Trump’s businesses are driving foreign policy decisions, including whether Trump violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution in the process” per CNN on Jan. 23.

  • Judiciary—On March 4, the committee “served document requests to 81 agencies, entities, and individuals believed to have information relevant to the investigation,” according to a statement by the panel. Among the individuals the committee is requesting documents from are Trump Organization EVP Donald Trump Jr.; EVP Eric Trump; EVP and COO Michael Calamari; CFO Alan Weisselberg; EVP and chief legal officer Alan Garten; Trump tax attorney Sherri Dillon; longtime Trump executive assistant Rhona Graff; former Trump advisor Felix Sater; former Trump attorney Michael Cohen; and Trump associate and inaugural chair, Tom Barrack. Barrack said he will cooperate.

  • Intelligence—On Feb. 6, chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D–CA) issued a statement that said his committee would investigate links or coordination between the Russian government/related foreign actors and individuals associated with Trump’s businesses, as well as if foreign actors sought to compromise or hold leverage over Trump’s businesses. During an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Feb. 10, Schiff said the committee will investigate Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, a major lender to the Trump Organization. Earlier, on Jan. 24, the committee sent an inquiry to Deutsche Bank AG on its ties to Trump, according to the bank. On Feb. 28, an aide said the panel expects to interview Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. During testimony on March 6, Michael Cohen turned over documents that allegedly show how Trump’s then-personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, edited Cohen’s statement regarding Trump Tower Moscow. Cohen later read this revised statement before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Felix Sater, who was connected to the Trump Moscow project, is scheduled to testify in an open hearing on March 14. Schiff hired a veteran prosecutor experienced with combating Russian organized crime to lead this investigation.

  • Oversight and Reform—Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings’s (D–MD) staff “has already sent out 51 letters to government officials, the White House, and the Trump Organization asking for documents related to investigations that the committee may launch,” according to CBS News on Jan. 13. In a Feb. 15 letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Cummings said the committee received documents showing White House attorney Stefan Passantino and long-time Trump personal attorney Sheri Dillon provided “false information” to the Office of Government Ethics regarding Michael Cohen’s “hush-money payments.” As a result, Cummings wants to depose both Passantino and Dillon; the White House, however, rejected Cummings’ request to interview Passantino. And on Feb. 27, Cohen testified to the committee about those payments and other Trump Organization business practices, which could lead to the committee requesting the president’s tax returns and allegations of possible insurance fraud. The next day, House Democrats signaled they would seek testimony from Trump Organization officials whom Cohen alleged were implicated, including Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and CFO Allen Weisselberg. On March 6, Cummings requested information from the GSA about its reversal of an earlier decision to relocate FBI headquarters, which is located across the street from the Trump Hotel D.C.

  • UPDATED Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management—Transportation committee chair Rep. Peter DeFazio (D–OR) and subcommittee chair Dina Titus (D–NV) sent a letter to GSA administrator Emily Murphy on Jan. 22 asking for all communication between the GSA and members of the Trump family dating back to 2015, an explanation of how the hotel calculates its profits, profit statements since the hotel opened in 2016, any guidance from the White House regarding the lease, and whether or not Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are recused from participating in decisions regarding the property. GSA has “sent a partial response and the subcommittee is reviewing it,” according to a senior House staffer familiar with the situation. When hearings begin, it is likely that Murphy will be the first person called to testify, according to a person familiar with the subcommittee’s plans. Titus is hiring additional staffers to handle the investigation. On March 6, Titus requested information from the GSA about its reversal of an earlier decision to relocate the FBI headquarters, which is located across the street from the Trump Hotel D.C. NPR reported on March 15 that, “Democrats on the committee want to know, among other things, whether there was any political pressure exerted on the GSA by the Trump White House, presidential campaign or transition team. They also want to know how the Trump Hotel calculates its profits, segregates incoming money from foreign governments, and what the Trump Organization owes the GSA on a monthly or annual basis.’”

  • Ways and Means subcommittee on Oversight—The subcommittee held its first hearing on “legislative proposals and tax law related to presidential and vice-presidential tax returns” on Feb. 7. “We will ask the question: Does the public have a need to know that a person seeking the highest office in our country obeys tax law?” said chair Rep. John Lewis (D–GA). Experts in tax law testified.

Legal cases, current status (latest change, March 6, 2019)

Health inspections, current status (latest change, Aug. 10, 2018)

  • ❌Hotel: five violations on May 7, 2018; two were corrected on site

  • ❌BLT Prime and Benjamin Bar: nine violations on Aug. 10, 2018

  • ❌Sushi Nakazawa: two violations on Aug. 10, 2018

  • ✔️Banquet kitchen: no violations on Aug. 10, 2018

  • ❌Pastry kitchen: two violations on Aug. 10, 2018

  • ✔️Gift shop: no violations on May 7, 2018

  • ❌Employee kitchen and in-room dining: five violations on Aug. 10, 2018; two were corrected on site

One thing that has nothing to do with Trump’s businesses (I think, tough to tell sometimes!)

An observation from Drew Harwell of The Washington Post:

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