Add noisy developer Donald Trump to the list of high-profile individuals who apparently support granting the District status equal with that of the 50 states, following an interview he gave Sunday to Meet the Press. During the 37-minute interview, the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination said he is for “whatever’s best” for DC residents, up to and including full statehood.
Trump gave the answer in response to a viewer-submitted question selected by host Chuck Todd. Though before arriving at his “whatever’s best” position, Trump was as mealymouthed on the District as he has been on other issues during his unusual campaign. But he also didn’t miss an opportunity to plug his company’s renovation of the Old Post Office building into a luxury hotel.
“How should DC residents be treated?” Todd asked.
“I have a conflict of interest because I’m building the greatest—you know, I’m building at the Old Post Office I think what will be maybe one of the great hotels in the world,” Trump said. “And, by the way, unlike our government, we’re under budget and ahead of schedule. Isn’t that a nice thing to hear? You don’t hear that. Just like the wall will be under budget and ahead of schedule.”
Trump, who has made undocumented immigration his signature campaign issue, proposes building a high wall along the US-Mexico border, with expenses covered by the government of Mexico.
But it is Trump’s hotel dealings that has exposed him to DC’s unique situation. The Meet the Press transcript tells more:
Trump: “I would like to do whatever is good for the District of Columbia because I love the people. You know, it’s funny. I’ve really gotten to know the people, the representatives, and the mayor, and everybody. They’re really special people. They’re great. And they have a great feeling.”
Todd: “So you’re okay with either way? If they want statehood, you’re for statehood?”
Trump: I mean, people are talking about that. I’d look at it. I’d certainly look at it—”
Todd did not press Trump about whether restaurateur José Andrés, whom he is currently suing for pulling out of the hotel project over Trump’s charged comments about immigration, counts as one of DC’s “really special people.” But more startling about Trump’s apparent openness toward DC statehood is that it is an extremely uncommon position in the Republican Party. Trump leads the most recent Fox News poll of GOP voters with 25 percent. The second-place candidate, Ben Carson, won the DC Republican Party’s straw poll last month, but questioned whether the District deserved to become a state because it lacks, among other features, an agricultural sector.
While the pro-statehood tone struck by the Republican frontrunner could be encouraging, DC’s voting-rights activists are taking a wait-and-see approach to see if Trump was being sincere, and if his position will sway his rivals.
“We’ve heard a lot from Mr. Trump, most of which has not been desirable,” says Kimberly Perry, the executive director of DC Vote, which reached out to Trump’s campaign Monday morning. “We’ll wait to learn more.”