Trump Reveals Flat Revenue at Controversial Washington Hotel

  • Discloses at least $528.9 million in total revenue and income
  • Hotel lost $1.2 million in first weeks, lawmakers say

Trump International Hotel Washington D.C.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump’s latest financial disclosure indicates that his Washington, D.C., hotel hasn’t seen a major jump in monthly revenue since his election, amid critics’ concerns that it might draw spending from people seeking to win the president’s favor.

The hotel, which got off to a money-losing start after its 2016 opening, reported roughly flat average monthly revenue through April 15, according to the 98-page document, which was released Friday evening by the federal Office of Government Ethics.

The disclosure form, the first Trump has filed since taking office, says that the president’s hundreds of holdings produced at least $528.9 million over a 15 1/2-month period that ended in April. That number appears to conflate revenue with income, as Trump’s previous disclosures have.

The Trump International Hotel Washington D.C., housed in a building that Trump’s company leases from the federal government, has drawn criticism over concern that foreign officials would patronize it in order to influence the president. It reported $19.7 million of “hotel-related revenue” on the disclosure form released Friday.

That would represent about $2.8 million a month -- comparable to the monthly rate that was disclosed earlier this year by a group of congressional Democrats. The lawmakers cited figures gathered by the General Services Administration showing that the hotel, which opened Sept. 12, had revenue of $4.1 million in September and October. In those two months, expenses outstripped revenue and the hotel lost $1.2 million, according to the lawmakers’ letter.

‘Fuller Picture’

Two spokeswomen, one for Trump Hotels and another for the Trump Organization, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment outside normal business hours.

The financial disclosure forms that U.S. officials are required to file offer only an imperfect window into Trump’s assets, debt and income.

“It is helpful that these were released, it does give us a fuller picture,” said John Wonderlich, executive director at the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation. He added that it underscores that Trump should release his tax returns or some other detailed analysis of his accounts. “We still don’t get the kind of picture that can let us understand what’s really going on,” Wonderlich said.

The president’s latest release comes as Trump is under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, a probe that’s tied to larger federal investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump campaign advisers colluded in any interference. By law, Trump could have postponed releasing the disclosure until 2018.

New Entities

“President Trump welcomed the opportunity to voluntarily file his personal financial disclosure form,” the White House press secretary’s office said in an emailed statement. The disclosure was certified by the federal ethics agency, according to the statement.

The form lists at least six new entities as assets that were formed over the past year, including DT Marks Vancouver, for which Trump listed more than $5 million in royalties, and DT Tower Kolkata LLC, for which he listed royalties of as much as $1 million. They’re affiliated with Trump-branded developments in Canada and India.

Overall, six Trump properties that the president has visited since taking office brought in roughly $132.7 million, the disclosure shows. Those include his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, which doubled its members’ annual dues in January to $200,000. The club generated $37 million during the reporting period, an increase from the $30 million that Trump reported last year.

Officials must disclose values on the form in ranges that top out at $50 million. Trump valued 22 of his holdings at $50 million or more.

Revenue Not Income

His disclosure of at least $528.9 million in income is probably inflated. For many of his properties, specifically golf courses and resorts, Trump lists revenue, rather than income, masking their profitability. His companies are required to file annual reports for three golf courses in Ireland and Scotland. Those reports show those three ventures run in the red.

The disclosure reflects income of between $2.5 million and $15.5 million from stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Trump sold all of his stocks in June 2016, a spokesman said in December.

Trump also disclosed three checking and savings accounts holding a total of at least $57 million.

The president disclosed $10.8 million from two entities affiliated with the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas, which he co-owns with entrepreneur Phil Ruffin. The figures, described as development fees and a sponsor fee, are attributed to companies for which the previous disclosures show no income. There’s been an uptick in hotel condo purchases at the tower by limited liability corporations during the past year. Trump and Ruffin still own more than 300 units.

Ladder Capital

The ranges listed for liabilities were largely unchanged from prior disclosures. The document shows Trump refinanced one $7 million loan previously held by UBS Group AG with Ladder Capital Finance LLC, a commercial mortgage lender that’s been one of his preferred partners over the last five years.

The document also shows that Trump has less than $1 million in bonds to be paid for 6 East 57th St., a Manhattan retail property that houses a Niketown store.

Trump drew scrutiny and criticism after he departed from roughly 40 years of tradition for major-party candidates by declining to release any of his tax returns. He has said he’s under audit, and won’t release the documents until the audit is over. Tax experts say there’s no law that would prevent releasing his returns, even while audits are pending. His spokesmen have also noted the extensiveness of his financial disclosures.

The president has retained his ownership interest in his various companies, another departure from tradition. Unlike previous occupants of the Oval Office, Trump neither divested his assets nor set up a blind trust.

Revocable Trust

Instead, on Jan. 17, three days before his inauguration, Trump transferred his far-flung holdings to a revocable trust managed by his adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.

Also in January, Trump resigned from 476 businesses, including companies active in Brazil, Canada and China, according to a document released by the Trump Organization.

Trump has repeatedly denied having any financial ties to Russia, and the documents are unlikely to reflect any. In the filing, Trump mostly lists limited liability corporations and partnerships that he owns. He isn’t required to list where the entities derive their income.

The 263-room Washington hotel, housed in a former U.S. Postal Service building, has figured in several controversies stemming from Trump’s decision not to divest his assets.

Currying Favor

Ethics experts have worried that Trump’s businesses give those who wish to curry favor -- especially a hotel blocks from the White House -- prominent venues in which to do so. For example, the venue hosted a party for the Kuwaiti embassy and an annual conference on U.S.-Turkey relations previously held at a nearby Ritz-Carlton hotel.

The American Petroleum Institute in March hosted a dinner in Trump’s Washington hotel attended by as many as 45 oil executives as well as Scott Pruitt, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency. Under Pruitt’s tenure, the agency has cut several rules and initiatives opposed by the oil industry. In May, a lobbying firm representing the government of Saudi Arabia disclosed it had paid $270,000 in lodging and catering fees to the hotel.

Three lawsuits claim that Trump’s businesses -- including the hotel -- violate the U.S. Constitution’s “emoluments clause,” which bans U.S. officials from accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments or from U.S. state and local governments. Last week, a group of almost 200 Democratic lawmakers filed the latest such suit. Two days earlier, Maryland and the District of Columbia filed suit on similar grounds.

In a response in June to an earlier, similar lawsuit, the Justice Department said that the emoluments clause doesn’t apply to fair-market commercial transactions, such as golf club fees, licensing payments, office rent or hotel bills.

The Trump Organization invested $212 million in the Washington hotel building. Forcing him to sell it -- as critics have demanded -- would create an “enormous personal financial loss for the president,” Trump’s lawyers said in a response to one lawsuit.

— With assistance by John McCormick, and Jennifer Epstein

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE