In the latest reminder that emoluments is still a thing, The Washington Post reports that an wealthy Iraqi sheikh spent a solid month at Trump’s D.C. hotel. That visit dropped “tens of thousands of dollars” into Trump’s wallet and came just as the sheikh was lobbying his pals John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to overthrow the government of Iran.
It’s not as if Bolton needs much encouragement, but sheikh Nahro al-Kasnazan underscored his seriousness by checking into a suite at Trump’s hotel and parking there for 26 days. Kasnazan visited with State Department officials while he was in town, and lobbied for aiding elements in Iran seeking to overthrow the government. But he denied that running up a five figure tab at Trump’s facility was part of his lobbying effort.
And honestly … he could be telling the truth. Because the Post story says that when he’s at home, Kasnazan “ives in a gold-bedecked mansion and summons his servants by walkie-talkie.” It’s just the kind of over-the-top combination of ostentatious, tacky, and techno-ignorant that indicates that the sheikh and Trump are sympatico. Staying at Trump’s Washington D.C. digs might have felt a like a little slice of gaudy home away from home.
Kasnazan did set a record for the longest “VIP stay” at the Trump hotel; something that likely got noticed when he was scheduling those visits with state department officials. The idea that Trump pays attention when people waltz into the White House with a receipt from the former post office is one big reason why even when business at other Trump hotels has plummeted, the D.C. hotel is full to the brim with visiting dignitaries, lobbyists, corporate parties, foreign embassy parties, and GOP fundraisers. Basically everyone knows—or at least think they know—that the fast track to getting a smile from Trump is to grease his palm by staying at the home of the world’s worst martini.
But really, the sheikh’s stay was just a blip compared to what others have spent. Lobbyists for the Saudi government shelled out for a combined 500 nights in just the firs three months after the election—as in the three months that immediately preceded Donald Trump making his first out of the country visit to Saudi Arabia.
At the beginning of May, District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that congressional Democrats can proceed with a lawsuit against Trump on the grounds that he is in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
In the case of the Iraqi sheikh, the Trump Organization refused to detail the total of Kasnazan’s bill or how much profit went to Trump. Since Kasnazan is not part of the Iraqi government, the claim is that it would not violate rules against foreign patronage—not that such rules have kept the hotel from putting up actually officials for extended periods. And after all, Kasnazan isn’t promoting his government, he’s soliciting help in bringing down another government. So it’s all okay.