Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He banned members of the media from the premises of his DC hotel.

Politico reporter Daniel Lippmann tried to have breakfast at the hotel Wednesday morning, but was turned away by the hotel's management, who told him that members of the media are barred during the week of the inauguration. As Lippmann later reported, DC laws and the terms of the hotel's government lease appear to forbid this.

Trump may be unusually sensitive about the Trump International Hotel because it is at the center of several of his more pointed conflicts of interest. His lease specifically forbids federal officers from being party to it. As president, Trump would be both plaintiff (since the GSA is an executive branch office) and defendant in any lawsuit over the terms of that lease.

He has also been accused of trying to drive foreign diplomats' business to the hotel as quid pro quo for access to his administration. A promise to reimburse the government for profits from such use in that one specific hotel was the only concession he made at last week's press conference on his refusal to divest from his business empire. Furthermore, Trump is being sued for nonpayment by at least three contractors who rushed to finish the hotel in time for the inauguration.

So what?

  • It's bad if a president tries to ban reporters from public places.
  • Trying to prevent reporting on conflicts of interest does not make conflicts of interest go away.