Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Is the Federal Government Hosting Foreign Visitors at the Trump Hotel?

By Sabrina McCubbin, Benjamin Wittes
Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 3:00 PM

Since Donald Trump’s election, numerous ethical concerns have been raised about his personal business interests in the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Could the hotel be a means by which foreign governments attempt to curry favor with the president? Could Trump use his position and influence as president to boost the hotel’s profits?

In recent months, we became specifically concerned that the U.S. government was spending money to house foreign visitors in this particular hotel—that is, that the State Department might be housing visiting dignitaries at taxpayer expense at a facility whose profits directly benefit the President.

We thought a Freedom of Information Act Request seemed like a good way to shed light on this question.

The State Department regularly organizes and funds trips for foreign officials to visit Washington and receive U.S. government training. For example, the department coordinates drug interdiction training provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration to foreign law enforcement officials. This is an established practice—but given the concerns surrounding the Trump Hotel, we wondered if any of the foreign officials visiting D.C. requested, or were provided, accommodations at the president’s property.

Our request asks for records related to the State Department’s reimbursement for stays at the Trump Hotel, as well as records related to booking of hotel accommodations at the Trump Hotel by the State Department. For comparison purposes, we also asked for records related to all booking and reimbursements for hotel accommodations provided to foreign officials in Washington and all records related to the budgeting and accounting for these expenses.

The full text of the request is below: