The next US election is still more than 1,200 days away, but US President Donald Trump is already drumming up cash to pay for his campaign — and chose the Trump International Hotel, two steps from the White House, as a fundraising venue.
On Wednesday, the 45th president of the US took part in a dinner benefiting the Republican Party and his own re-election bid, with a seat at the table reportedly starting at US$35,000 — and rising to US$100,000 for super donors.
The White House is upfront about the US president’s intention to seek a second term.
“Of course he is running for re-election,” Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday when quizzed on the topic.
“But right now, he is focused on his agenda, focused on the midterms and raising money for the party,” she said. “I don’t think that’s abnormal for any president.”
While the phenomenon leaves many uncomfortable, it has long been part of US political life for the president to contribute star power to fundraising events — be it for his party or his own cause.
However, in the case of the business mogul-turned-president, things are a bit more complicated: rich donors coming to hear to him speak on Wednesday night would be contributing not only to his campaign, but to his real-estate empire as well.
About 200 Democratic lawmakers have sued the US president, arguing that he is violating the US Constitution by accepting foreign payments through his empire of hotels, golf courses and other properties.
A separate suit filed by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington claims the hotel, which opened a few weeks before the November last year election, enjoys an unfair advantage over rival venues due to its links to the US presidency.
Both lawsuits are underpinned by the notion that Trump is embroiled in a permanent conflict of interest, having failed to put sufficient distance between himself and his business empire.
The plaintiffs said that foreign delegations regularly opt to stay at Trump’s hotel when in Washington, that foreign governments have chosen to buy or rent property built by the Trump Organization, or that Chinese authorities have registered Trump-owned trademarks.
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