When the Trump International Hotel opened on Pennsylvania Avenue in 2016, a Washingtonian reporter spotted a dead bird stuck in a mail chute. That was in September 2016, when the thought of a Trump presidency still seemed like a joke, but all the signs of what we now know is Donald Trump’s…improvisational approach to management were already present at the Old Post Office Building before Election Day 2016: Strange hires. Obscenely expensive and weird offerings. A surprising inability to make deals stick.
Now the Trump Organization is said to be exploring the sale of its lease with the General Services Administration: “People are objecting to us making so much money on the hotel, and therefore we may be willing to sell,” Eric Trump told the Wall Street Journal. Indeed, the Trump Hotel appears to be a lonely outpost of good revenue in the Trump Organization’s rickety empire. There’s no doubt the hotel is a Romanesque Revival headache for the Trump Organization—DC and Maryland’s lawsuit that argues the hotel violates the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause just got revived, the artist Robin Bell shows up from time to time to project anti-Trump messages on its exterior, and a House committee just issued a subpoena to the GSA for documents about the hotel’s lease.
Still, the hotel has been wildly popular among the very small portion of DC-area residents that supports the President. The Washington Post recently reported that Attorney General Bill Barr planned to throw a $30,000 holiday party at his boss’s hotel because other venues were booked. (We somehow found several other places that had space available.) That kind of naked supplication to the President’s financial interests has been very good to the Trump Hotel, where, for instance, Saudi-funded lobbyists booked 500 nights in three months after the election.
If you’re part of the overwhelming majority of Washington-area residents who do not support Trump’s presidency, the Trump Hotel is a visible and nagging reminder of the psychic burden of his administration. I took a quick spin through Washingtonian‘s Trump Hotel archives and spotted a narrative of bummed-out dispossession that works as a miniature history of the last three-plus very weird years in the DC area:
• Here’s What Happens When You Order Wine by the Spoon at the Trump Hotel (September 13, 2016)
• Hillary Clinton Supporters Had a Good Time Watching the Debate at Trump’s DC Hotel (September 27 2016)
• DC’s Mayor Won’t Attend the Trump Hotel’s Official Grand Opening (October 20, 2016)
• The Trump Hotel’s Bar Has Already Jacked Up Its Cocktail Prices (October 26, 2016)
• Owner of Forthcoming Trump Hotel Restaurant Bashes DC’s Food Scene (November 30, 2016)
• Luxury Travel Group Gives Trump’s DC Hotel a Brutal Review (December 20, 2016)
• The Cheapest Cocktail at the Trump Hotel Is Now $24 (January 5, 2017)
• Ranking: The Trump Hotel Is Only the 37th Best in Washington (February 2, 2017)
• Cork Wine Bar Sues Trump Hotel Over Unfair Competition (March 9, 2017)
• This DC Artist Projected the Emoluments Clause onto the Trump Hotel (May 16, 2017)
• The Trump Hotel Was Pretty Quiet During the Comey Hearing (June 8, 2017)
• Trump Staffers Are Throwing Yet Another Election Anniversary Party at DC’s Trump Hotel (November 28, 2017)
• Trump’s Hotels Are Getting Yelp-Bombed After His “Shithole” Remark (January 12, 2018)
• This Trump Hotel Offer Painstakingly Avoids Using Words “Trump Hotel” (August 1, 2018)
• DC Liquor Board Isn’t Revoking Trump Hotel’s Liquor License—Yet (September 12, 2018)
• Trump’s DC Hotel Yanks White House Images From Its Merchandise (March 27, 2019)