Kuwait, Bahrain, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. Now add the Philippines to the roster of countries checking in at Trump International, the Washington, D.C., hotel operated by the U.S. president.
The hotel, just a stone’s throw from the White House, will host a Philippine government gala to mark the country’s 120th Independence Day on June 12, the Associated Press reported on Saturday.
The long roster of foreign governments looking to do business at the Trump-owned establishment has raised fears that foreign governments could use those ties to influence the president.
The Philippines is pursuing a bilateral free-trade agreement with the U.S. after Trump pulled out of negotiations for a regional free-trade agreement, the Trans Pacific Partnership, to which the Philippines would have been a party.
Kuwait, Bahrain, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia have also booked rooms or held events at the hotel since Trump took office, according to the Associated Press, as has a business group with close ties to the Turkish government.
Those other countries figured into the Philippine embassy’s decision to hold its gala at the Trump Hotel, according to Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez.
“[S]ince several other embassies have also held their national day celebrations at the Trump hotel which were well attended – I decided – why not do it there, too,” Romualdez wrote in The Philippine Star last week.
Romualdez acknowledged the move’s “political undertones” in passing but said he sought out the Trump Hotel because it is “elegant and historic.”
The gala comes as Trump faces a lawsuit from the governments of D.C. and Maryland that claims his lease on the Trump International Hotel violates the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which bars the president from receiving gifts from a “foreign state.”
Trump refused to divest from his hotels and other business interests on taking office, despite widespread criticism from government watchdogs and ethics experts — and a pointed speech by Walter Shaub, then head of the Office of Government Ethics.
“OGE’s primary recommendation is that he divest his conflicting assets,” Shaub said of Trump’s properties during a Jan. 11, 2017, speech at the Brookings Institution. “Nothing short of divestiture will resolve these conflicts.”
Trump has repeatedly claimed his two sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are running his companies in his absence. But the Trump International Hotel’s director of revenue, Jeng Chi Hung, said in an email to an acquaintance late last year that is president is “definitely still involved” in the hotel’s operations. The hotel later claimed Hung made those comments up to inflate his importance.
The Trump Organization has donated profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury in an effort to avoid perceived conflicts of interest, but it has not released any information about how it calculates the amount of those donations or where the money comes from.
The upcoming gala comes at a time of controversy in the Philippine. President Rodrigo Duterte has overseen a war on drugs that has included over 2,000 extrajudicial killings of suspected drug users, dealers, and innocent bystanders.
Trump praised Duterte for his handling of the drug war in a phone call last May, according to a leaked transcript obtained by The Intercept, telling Duterte he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
Last month, Trump publicly called for the federal government to start pursuing the death penalty in some drug cases.