News & Politics

Muriel Bowser to Meet With New York Donor on Tuesday

Muriel Bowser participated in the "groundbreaking" of the Trump International Hotel on July 23, 2014. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser will meet Tuesday in New York with President-elect Donald Trump, the first time the two will have spoken in person since 2014, when Trump’s company started work on converting the Old Post Office into a luxury hotel. The meeting, details of which were first reported by the Washington Post, may also be Trump’s first taste at what to expect from a city where only 4 percent of voters backed his campaign.

While the dynamic between Bowser and Trump is now far different than two-and-a-half years ago, when she was a member of the DC Council and he was just a hotel developer, the two are linked through to the Trump family’s backing of her ascendancy to the mayor’s office. Trump gave Bowser’s 2015 inaugural committee $5,000, while Ivanka and Eric Trump each gave her 2014 campaign $2,000, the maximum individual donation allowed by DC campaign-finance law. (On Monday, CNN reported that Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, are considering a move to Washington.)

Bowser’s office did not reply to questions regarding what she and Trump will talk about. Most likely the fate of the Trump International Hotel will come up, as legal experts are questioning whether the Trump Organization can continue to lease the building from the General Services Administration, whose next director will be a Trump appointee. The 60-year lease agreed to in 2012 stipulates that no elected officials from the DC or federal governments could be a party to the agreement; Trump has so far failed to elaborate how he plans to extricate himself from his family’s company, saying only that he will turn it over to his three oldest children.

Even though the hotel is a federal property, Trump and Bowser might still find themselves at odds over the tax bill it owes the District under a law that taxes private companies conducting business on federal property. Last month the Trump Organization re-filed a lawsuit against DC seeking to lower its tax liability from the $1.7 million figure the city assessed. And even though Bowser once didn’t seem to mind appearing alongside the Trumps, she’s kept her distance from the hotel since it opened in September.

Other issues at play may involve the federal funding that makes up one-quarter of DC’s annual budget, including funds for the city’s judicial system. During his campaign, Trump threatened to cut off federal funds for “sanctuary cities,” communities where officials and local law enforcement refuse to go along with federal immigration officials’ deportation orders. Shortly after the November 8 election, Bowser released a statement affirming the District’s status as a sanctuary city. LaToya Foster, a spokeswoman for Bowser, tells Washingtonian that is still the city’s policy.

Or perhaps Bowser will bring up Sunday’s shooting at Comet Ping Pong, allegedly carried out by a North Carolina man who claimed to be “self-investigating” a false conspiracy theory promoted by some of Trump’s far-right supporters. Whatever course the meeting between Bowser and Trump takes, Foster says the mayor’s office will produce a readout of the conversation, something Trump’s transition operation has not always been forthcoming with in the president-elect’s dealings with other elected officials.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.