News

Meet the DC Reporter Who’s Made the Trump Hotel His Beat

If you're a regular at the President's hotel, you're probably on Zach Everson's radar.
Photo of the Trump International Hotel by Jeff Elkins

Zach Everson hadn’t even received a key card from the Trump International Hotel when he realized employees there knew the nature of his stay was business, not pleasure. It was April 2017, and Everson was checking in to research an article for Condé Nast Traveler that would eventually be titled “Inside the World’s Most Controversial Hotel.”

“All of a sudden two managers came down to greet me, and it was clear, you know, they weren’t doing that to anybody else,” Everson says. “I later asked the managing director who oversees the hotel how they knew what I did for a living, and he said that they have a department that looks up all of its guests, especially the new ones.”

Nearly two years later, Everson is one of the most prominent voices on an extremely narrow beat: covering the President’s DC hotel. He relentlessly documents its guests on Twitter and writes a newsletter about the goings-on at one of Washington’s weirder businesses.

How did you spin a one-time story into an entire beat?

I was waiting for a draft to come back, and I just started poking around on social media to try to see what was happening at the hotel and if I was able to get a grasp of it. It was during the time of Anthony Scaramucci’s reign.

His 11-day reign!

The segment that we all got to see in those press conferences, it carried over to the hotel. I mean, I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing there, and how easy it was to find these people hanging out. I mean Scaramucci was there, Giuliani, Antonio Sabàto Jr. when he was mulling a candidacy for Congress. Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders—I think they were all there, and I just started sharing it on Twitter. And after a while I started threading it together. I just kept doing it, and I kept finding more and more things, and pulling threads. I did some assignments for Daily Beast, some stuff for Fast Company as well. But then in December I just launched this dedicated newsletter about the hotel. My thought being that it’s something that needs daily coverage. It’s not just the first time the Kuwaiti embassy has a National Day celebration [at the Trump hotel] that really matters.  When it does it three years in a row, that shows a pattern of behavior.

There’s some sort of news cycle exhaustion, maybe, and you’re trying to fill that space.

Exactly. Not to make it sound like it’s art, by any stretch, but it’s like the pointillist approach to journalism. I think the story of what’s happening at that hotel is best told largely through thousands of dots. It’s not just when you do see Mike Pence, Kevin McCarthy, a presidential candidate from Nigeria hanging out there, but it is those junior Hill staffers, because it’s their money going into the Trump Organization as well.

How often are you at the hotel?

I do about once or twice a month. But I’ve got probably about 70 bookmarks that I check every day. Social media sites, people I know who are there often, a couple of dozen Google Alerts, Twitter lists. I compile all that stuff so every night. And what I find all goes into the newsletter.

I’m assuming the hotel folks know who you are. Can they recognize you?

Absolutely, oh, absolutely. In the course of looking me up online they figured out very quickly what I did for a living. The fact that I live in the DC area and was checking into the downtown DC hotel for two days, you know, I’m sure made it very obvious I was there to write about the hotel.

Has the staff given you any problems in the times you showed up since then?

No, they’ve never really given us any grief. I was there a couple months ago with some reporters for the Trump, Inc. podcast. Sebastian Gorka sat down across from us, and one of the other journalists there raised his cell phone, not to take a video or picture, but to record my thoughts. All of a sudden two or three hotel managers got right in between us and Dr. Gorka and told us no taping.

Did they ever make you feel uncomfortable?

Not at all. I mean, they’re excellent in hospitality. I’m the only one down there who’s dedicated exclusively to putting a newsletter out about their hotel, but they’ve typically been accommodating to the media from what I can tell.

Are the people who show up often the movers and shakers? Or more the Charlie Kirks and Candace Owenses of the world?

It’s tough to say, because I don’t capture everything. For all I know three cabinet secretaries could have been there last night and I missed it, but we have seen fewer embassies having events there.  I don’t believe, for example, that Azerbaijan came back. E&E News did an article recently where they broke down all of the energy and environmental groups that have had events at the Trump Hotel and found that a lot of them did not come back. It might just be that every time one of these cabinet secretaries goes to the Trump Hotel they get hit with two dozen FOIA requests.

I have a sense that it’s becoming a place where folks go to be seen rather than being actually significant.

That’s the problem I encounter every day when I try to figure out is this person worth putting in the newsletter, or do I just think this person is significant because he or she hangs out at the hotel all the time with Charlie Kirk?

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

Get Washingtonian’s Daily DC Updates (Not Just Another Political News Roundup)

Staff Writer

Brittany Shepherd covers the societal and cultural scene in political Washington. Before joining Washingtonian as a staff writer in 2018, Brittany was a White House Correspondent for Independent Journal Review. While she has lived in DC for a number of years now, she still yearns for the fresh Long Island bagels of home. Find her on Twitter, often prattling on about Frasier.