Saudi lobbyists moved some business to President Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C., last year following the 2016 election, paying for an estimated 500 nights’ stay over just three months at the Trump International Hotel.
Until December 2016, the lobbyists were booking at hotels in Northern Virginia, according to The Washington Post.
The lobbyists, backed by the Saudi Arabian government, spent around $270,000 at the Trump hotel in total, housing dozens of U.S. military veterans brought to the district to lobby Congress against a recently-passed law allowing victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue other governments.
The amount Saudi lobbyists spent at Trump’s D.C. hotel for the effort was previously reported by The Wall Street Journal last year. The Post reports the 500 nights in Trump’s hotel came at a discounted rate, and organizers claim that is the reason they moved their business there.
Some of the veterans that the Post spoke to said they were not aware they were lobbying on behalf of Saudi Arabia.
“I said, ‘Oh, we were just used to give Trump money,’ ” Henry Garcia, a Navy veteran from San Antonio, told The Post was his response when he found out Saudi Arabia paid for the trip.
Organizers told the Post they were upfront about who was funding the trips.
Documents obtained by the Post show that Saudi officials paid for six groups of U.S. military veterans to stay at the Trump hotel for periods of time between December 2016 and February 2017, following Congress’s decision to override former President Obama’s veto of the law.
The aim of the lobbying efforts appeared to be an amendment to the law, though no changes were ever passed through Congress and some veterans involved told the Post that it was unclear what specific changes the groups organizing the trips desired to see.
The president has faced criticism since taking office last year over his ties to the Trump Organization, which has at times received business from Republican and pro-Trump groups and organizations, as well as members of foreign governments.