The former head of the Office of Government Ethics bashed “corrupt” politicians, lobbying groups and foreign governments using President Donald Trump’s Washington hotel to “funnel cash” to the president.
Walter Shaub, who served as ethics chief under presidents Barack Obama and Trump, spoke up Saturday after Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) posted a letter on Twitter turning down an invitation to a gala last month hosted by Kuwait at the Trump International Hotel.
“Regrettably, it was held at Trump International Hotel DC,” Lieu noted in his tweet. “Potus’ continued ownership of this hotel raises serious ethical/legal questions (see Emoluments Clause of U.S. Constitution). Therefore, we declined.”
The hotel, located in a landmark building owned by taxpayers and leased by the Trump Organization, is at the center of a lawsuit arguing that the business violates the Constitutional prohibition against a federal official accepting payments or gifts from states or foreign governments — like those that book rooms and events there. Shaub and other ethics experts say the hotel is also an easy conduit for cash from anyone hoping to curry favor with the president.
Shaub praised Lieu’s rejection of the invitation, and accused members of Congress who attended the bash of “complicity in the only ethics violation our founders sought to prevent.” He said lawmakers have a “constitutional duty to conduct meaningful oversight of the executive.”
Shaub also denounced foreign nations, American political groups and politicians for using the hotel to “funnel cash” to the president.
The Center for Responsive Politics tracked hundreds of thousand of dollars spent last year at the hotel by U.S. political organizations and politicians’ campaigns, including $6,000 from the Jordan for Congress campaign to elect Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), whose photo at the hotel was highlighted in this Shaub tweet:
The Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram reported last month that former Maine Gov. Paul LePage spent $22,000 in taxpayer funds over a two-year period on rooms and lavish dinners at the hotel for himself and his staff when he was in office. The expenditures were so high that they were flagged by the state controller’s office, the papers reported.
Expenditure documents were subpoenaed late last year as part of the lawsuit filed against Trump and the hotel by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, which accuses the president of violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause barring federal officials from accepting gifts or payments from states and foreign governments.
U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte noted in an opinion concerning Maine that expenditures by one state benefitting the president “may very well” make other state governments feel ”obliged, i.e., coerced, to patronize the hotel in order to help them obtain federal favors.”
T-Mobile executives booked more than 52 nights at the hotel as the company was seeking approval from the Trump administration for a merger with Sprint, The Washington Post reported last month.
The transactions “raise questions about whether T-Mobile is attempting to curry favor with the president through the Trump Organization, and exacerbate our concerns about the President’s continued financial relationship with the Trump Organization,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) wrote in letters last month to T-Mobile and Trump Organization executives.