The Trump Organization, and by extension Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump, may have created yet another legal nightmare for themselves.
The Trump Organization booked a block of rooms at the Loews Madison Hotel ahead of the 2017 presidential inauguration. The Trump Organization refused to pay the bill after at least 13 guests failed to show up, as it has done many times before. The corporation then eluded a credit collection agency, eventually squeezing out of the situation by sending the $49,358 charge to the PIC, a non-profit presidential inaugural organization.
The attorney general for the District of Columbia’s newest attempt to re-target the Trump Organization in an ongoing investigation into how the Trump children exploited the Presidential Inauguration Committee to hold lavish parties of their own is centered on that evaded payment.
“It was their friends. It should never have been sent to the PIC. That’s misuse of funding. The Trump Organization being involved in any way and getting the PIC to pay any sort of balance anywhere on their behalf? It just doesn’t seem legitimate,” said Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who coordinated the inaugural events.
Winston Wolkoff is no longer a buddy of the Trumps. Although Winston Wolkoff had been close to the Trump family for over a decade and later became First Lady Melania Trump’s “Trusted Adviser” there was a breakdown after Winston Wolkoff felt the Trump White House made her the scapegoat for inaugural mismanagement.
A firm linked with her, WIS Media Partners, received a stunning $26 million, and Winston Wolkoff overcame Justice Department opposition to the release of her tell-all book “Melania and Me.”
Attorney General Karl Racine of the District of Columbia is continuing his investigation into how the inaugural committee allegedly misappropriated more than $1 million, which was reportedly used to ultimately enrich Trump’s own firm on his journey to the White House. In addition, the Attorney General’s office is attempting to recoup from a courtroom defeat suffered late last year.
When D.C. Superior Court Judge José M. López let the Trump Organization loose from the case in November, it appeared that the local attorney general’s probe was doomed. Even though Don Jr., Ivanka, and other personnel at the company’s New York office were on a lot of the paperwork, his argument astonished some following the case: the family’s company wasn’t directly involved. As a result, he decided to dismiss the Trump Organization from the complaint.
The judge’s decision on Nov. 8 was based on the company’s accusations that Texas financier Gentry Beach lacked the right to list the Trump Organization when he used an American Express credit card to make the massive and costly reservation. Beach, on the other hand, was not unfamiliar with the Trump Organization. He was a college friend of Donald Trump Jr.’s and was chosen to serve on the nonprofit’s finance committee. Even before the inauguration, he was exposed by journalists as a member of a foundation run by Eric Trump, Don Jr., and another wealthy Texan that appeared to be auctioning off access to the Trumps.
Racine’s office has already filed filings in court trying to overturn that decision, citing several receipts and memos as evidence that even the debt collector wouldn’t be tricked into allowing the Trump Organization get out of this one.
Campbell Hightower & Adams in Arizona, in typical aggressive collections form, began hammering the company with phone calls and emails in June 2017, following up where the Loews Madison Hotel had left off.
When she regularly talked with Don Jr.’s executive assistant, Kara Hanley, a collector known only as “Sherie” scribbled down notes.
“Unfortunately, this was not an agreement made by anyone at The Trump Organization. Best, Kara,” Hanley wrote on June 8.
“A contract was signed and then 13 people did not show up for the rooms you reserved [sic] so according to the contract terms, those rooms still have to be paid for. What am I missing?” Sherie wrote back
Sherie informed the Trump Organization a few weeks later that she had just learned that another Don Jr. executive assistant, Lindsey Santoro, had ordered the rooms and added Beach as the deal’s key contact. That information seemed to solidify the company’s involvement even more.
Sherie became suspicious when the hotel called the collections agency in July, requesting that the bill’s listed debtor be changed to “58th Presidential Inauguration Committee”—with an odd specific note adding “It just cannot read ‘The Trump Organization.”
“I hesitate as they all seem to be pointing fingers and making excuses as to why they won’t pay it and this seems to be another ploy so the Trump Organization’s name is not on it,” Sherie wrote back on July 10.
The payment was subsequently paid by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, according to records, at the instruction of Rick Gates, a Trump political associate who worked on the committee—and later served time in prison for unrelated crimes swept up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
The Attorney General of the District of Columbia is hoping that this information would show that the Trump Organization should be included in the case, which aims to collect money it believes was misappropriated and redirect it to another nonprofit. Otherwise, only the PIC.
A lawyer for the Trump Organization and Trump Hotel slammed the AG’s last-ditch effort as “rehashed arguments” seeking “multiple bites at several apples” in court filings. Beach, Don Jr.’s buddy, didn’t have the specific permission to conduct the agreement, according to attorney Rebecca Woods. She also stated that investigators should no longer be able to obtain sworn testimony from him or his executive assistant, Santoro.
When contacted by The Daily Beast, the AG’s office referred to its legal arguments. A request for comment from the Trump Organization’s lawyer was not returned. On Friday, the collection agency did not respond my calls.
Notably, none of these records mentioned yet another level of Trump Organization involvement: how firm CFO Allen Weisselberg mysteriously gained responsibility for auditing the nonprofit PIC’s books. D.C. investigators sought to interrogate him under oath last summer, but he was later indicted in New York City for criminal tax fraud.
The request of the local attorney general is now before the judge—but it’s a different one this time.
The case was moved to D.C. Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams, a former NAACP attorney who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama on New Year’s Eve.