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Saudi defense officials rented suites at Trump's DC hotel that cost $10,500 right before MBS visited White House

John Haltiwanger   

Saudi defense officials rented suites at Trump's DC hotel that cost $10,500 right before MBS visited White House
  • Officials from six countries spent over $750k at Trump's DC hotel in 2017 and 2018, documents show.
  • The officials stayed at Trump's hotel amid rocky periods in relations between their countries and the US.

Officials from six countries spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at former President Donald Trump's hotel in Washington, DC, during sensitive periods in relations between their governments and the US, according to documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee from Trump's former accounting firm, Mazars USA.

The documents show that officials from six countries — Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and China — spent over $750,000 at the Trump International Hotel in 2017 and 2018. In many cases, the officials rented costly rooms and indulged in expensive services.

Officials from the Saudi defense ministry, for example, rented the most expensive rooms at the hotel in March 2018 at a time when Riyadh was seeking Washington's support over a diplomatic spat with Qatar. At the time, Saudi Arabia and several of its allies had severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed a blockade on the Gulf state.

The Saudi officials spent nearly $86,000 from March 7 to March 18, including renting several $10,500 suites.

During that same period, Rex Tillerson — who had expressed opposition to the blockade on Qatar — was fired as Trump's secretary of state. On March 20, a week after Tillerson was fired, Trump hosted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) at the White House and praised Saudi Arabia as a "very great friend and a big purchaser of equipment and lots of other things." The Trump administration approved arms sales to the Saudis worth more than $1 billion within days of the visit.

"These documents sharply call into question the extent to which President Trump was guided by his personal financial interest while in office rather than the best interests of the American people," Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, chair of the House Oversight Committee, said in a press release.

Trump was often at odds with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle over his full-throated support for arms sales to Saudi Arabia, particularly after the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, was explicitly implicated in Khashoggi's killing by the US government. Many congressional lawmakers also expressed concerns over providing arms to the Saudis as it faced rampant criticism over its prosecution of the war in Yemen, which is estimated to have killed close to 15,000 civilians. But Trump rejected efforts to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

In a letter to acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that outlined the findings released on Monday, Maloney requested additional documents to help determine whether Trump "distorted U.S. foreign policy to serve his own financial interests at the expense of the American people and in violation of his oath of office."

A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

In a statement provided to NBC News, Eric Trump said, "As a company, we went to tremendous lengths to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, not due to any legal requirement, but because of the respect we have towards the office of the presidency," adding that the company "voluntarily donated all profits from foreign government patronage at our properties back to the United States Treasury on an annual basis."

Previously, the Oversight Committee estimated that Trump's hotel in the nation's capital received over $3.75 million from foreign governments from 2017 to 2020.

Unlike some of his predecessors, Trump refused to divest from his business empire when he became president and had his sons takeover day-to-day operations. The decision led to widespread concerns of conflicts of interest, which the Oversight Committee continues to investigate. Trump has also faced allegations of violating the Constitution's emoluments clause, which prohibits public officials from receiving gifts or cash from foreign governments without congressional approval.

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