MARCH 5, 2019
T-Mobile’s patronage of President Trump’s Washington hotel increased sharply after the announcement of its merger with Sprint last April, with executives spending about $195,000 at the property since then, the company told congressional Democrats in a letter last month.
Before news of the megadeal between rival companies broke on April 29, 2018, the company said, only two top officials from T-Mobile had ever stayed at Trump’s hotel, with one overnight stay each in August 2017.
But the day after the merger’s announcement, nine of T-Mobile’s top executives were schedule to check in, The Washington Post reported in January. The Post, relying on internal Trump hotel documents, found that T-Mobile executives had reserved at least 52 nights at the hotel since the announcement.
In a Feb. 21 letter responding to questions from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the company for the first time disclosed its total spending at the Trump hotel during that period.
The roughly $195,000 paid for “meeting space, catering, business center services, audio/visual equipment rental [and] lodging” at Trump’s hotel near the White House, according to the letter from Anthony Russo, T-Mobile USA’s vice president of federal legislative affairs.
Russo said the Trump hotel received about 14 percent of T-Mobile’s $1.4 million in total corporate spending on D.C.-area hotels during the 10-month period. About half of that was spent at Hilton hotels, he noted.
The company’s boost in spending at the president’s hotel as its megamerger is being considered by the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission has drawn criticism from Democratic lawmakers, who say it shows that Trump is profiting from his office.
“The American people deserve better than an administration that appears to be for sale to businesses eager to line the President’s pockets,” Warren and Jayapal said in a joint statement. The two Democrats had sent written questions to T-Mobile after The Post revealed the extent of the company’s patronage of the Trump hotel.
A T-Mobile spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In its letter, T-Mobile said it does not believe the stays at the Trump hotel by its executives would have an impact on federal regulators assessing the merger.
“While we understand that staying at Trump properties might be viewed positively by some and negatively by others, we are confident that the relevant agencies address the questions before them on the merits,” Russo wrote.
The Justice Department and FCC have declined to comment on the merger.
In a separate letter earlier last month to Warren and Jayapal, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said the stays at the Trump hotel were not intended to shift Trump administration policy.
Asked whether T-Mobile had notified anyone in the government about its patronage of the hotel, Legere wrote, “No, not to my knowledge.”
The T-Mobile executives were very visible during their stays at the Trump hotel, wearing clothes featuring the bright-magenta T-Mobile logo. At one point, Legere walked around the Trump hotel lobby posing for photos.
Trump has handed day-to-day control of his businesses to his sons Don Jr. and Eric and to longtime executive Allen Weisselberg. Eric Trump has rejected the idea that T-Mobile was staying at the hotel to curry favor.
“It should come as no surprise that a CEO of a major corporation would want to stay with us,” he said in January, noting the hotel’s reputation for luxury.
Courtesy/Source: The Washington Post