WASHINGTON ― Republicans had to cancel their big convention celebration in North Carolina ― and then Florida ― this year, but that doesn’t mean the festivities were all called off. The center of gravity instead moved to Washington, particularly the Trump International Hotel, where donors are being treated to panels, receptions and even a bourbon tasting with their favorite Trump World personalities.
Much of the action of a convention goes on outside of the official proceedings, in the parties and fundraisers around town. At least some of those events are still going on this week, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The big event planned for Wednesday is a reception with Donald Trump Jr., his girlfriend and Trump fundraiser Kimberly Guilfoyle, Tiffany Trump, her boyfriend Michael Boulos, and John Pence, the nephew of the vice president.
According to an invitation obtained by HuffPost, tickets to the reception with the Trump offspring started at $1,000 for young professionals and $2,800 for others; co-hosts needed to raise or donate $15,000. The events are hosted by Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee consisting of the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and 11 state Republican parties.
There’s also a bourbon tasting with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
The lobby of the Trump hotel was crowded on Wednesday afternoon. Masks were required to enter the building, and both Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle were wearing them while in the lobby.
On Wednesday and Thursday, donors can attend panels hosted by 2016 Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski or Katrina Pierson, go to an “Art of the Deal” reception with Peter Navarro, and get a political briefing from 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien, according to a schedule obtained by HuffPost. A conference call with Vice President Mike Pence is set for Thursday morning.
Much of the programming would fit in well at the Conservative Political Action Conference or a gathering of the conservative youth group Turning Point USA ― especially since Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk was set to host a panel on “big tech censorship” with Trump Jr. on Wednesday afternoon.
Other panels on Wednesday included “The Failed Coup: Defeating the Deep State with Matt Whitaker, Pam Bondi and Sebastian Gorka” and “Let Them Play: The Fight For Student Athletes with Herschel Walker, Jack Brewer and The Honorable Andrew Giuliani.”
Thursday brings the breakfast briefing with Stepien, as well as two panels: “The Law & Order President,” hosted by Rudy Giuliani, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Guilfoyle, and one on strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship, which features former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Jason Greenblatt, New York Rep. Lee Zeldin and Boris Epshteyn.
Donors will also get direct access to policymakers at a panel with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
It’s not clear if all the panels and events are taking place at the hotel.
View the schedule here:
Even beyond the formal programming, the Trump hotel is the place for Republicans to see and be seen this week. A number of convention speakers are staying at the hotel or have posted pictures there.
Conventions generally deliver a massive boost to hotels, restaurants, bars and other local businesses, with thousands of people flowing into a city for a week. The Republican National Convention was originally set to be in Charlotte, North Carolina, until Gov. Roy Cooper (D) asked the GOP to scale back its plans because of the coronavirus outbreak. Angry, Trump announced he was moving it to Florida.
When Florida saw a spike in coronavirus cases as well, the party again changed its plans, canceling everything in Florida and holding only a small bit of official business in Charlotte. This week’s speeches have been delivered from Washington, and the president is set to deliver his address on Thursday from the White House. Indeed, some key moments of the GOP convention ― the first lady’s speech, a naturalization ceremony ― have taken place in the White House, an unprecedented and unethical use of the federal resources for a political convention.
The Trump International Hotel jacked up its prices when it began seeming likely that the convention would essentially be moving to Washington. The hotel had revenue of $40.5 million last year, roughly steady from the previous year.