Trump Org Asked Federal Government to Change D.C. Hotel Lease amid Coronavirus Shutdown: Reports
The Trump Organization pays the federal government about $260,000 per month to lease the hotel space
The New York Times and Washington Post reported this week that the Trump Organization has asked the federal government about possibly changing the terms of its Washington, D.C., hotel lease — amid a nationwide economic downturn during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
President Donald Trump‘s private company is asking to be considered for any new rent accommodations made available in light of the economic crisis, which has not spared his businesses, according to the Post.
Citing sources, the Times reported that the company “has inquired about changing its lease payments,” which it told the paper it has not fallen behind on.
“We asked if you are doing something for any of your other properties. All we are saying is don’t single us out,” Eric Trump told the Post. “Treat us the same as everyone else.”
He said much the same in a statement to the Times: “Just treat us the same. Whatever that may be is fine.”
“[Eric] confirmed that the company had opened a conversation about possible changes to the terms of the lease, which could include adjustments to future monthly payment,” according to the Times.
The president declined to give up his stake in the company when taking office, though he insists he is not involved in operations while his sons run it. (Eric, 36, took over alongside his brother Donald Trump Jr.)
The arrangement has drawn sustained ethics criticism.
The Trump Organization operates the Trump International Hotel in D.C., but the building is owned by the federal government and the hotel space is rented to the Trumps for about $268,000 a month. The General Services Administration oversees the lease.
The hotel is a popular gathering spot for Trump allies, Republican lawmakers and visiting foreign dignitaries.
The latter group gave fuel to detractors who argue the president is, in essence, taking foreign bribes for access — though the Trumps say there is nothing improper going on because the president distanced himself.
The GSA did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s questions about its protocol in handling such requests.
The Trump Organization has reportedly been trying to sell the property since last year, in part because it is controversial — but that has been put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The president’s organization has made a number of moves to cut costs in the wake of the economic crisis this past month, including laying off more than 230 of its staff at the D.C. hotel.
The Trump Organization was restricted from receiving federal aid in the CARES Act stimulus bill and the president’s company decided against applying for aid through the Small Business Administration, according to the Times.
The paper reports that elsewhere the Trump Organization has temporarily closed its Las Vegas hotel, cut staff at its hotel in New York and closed its golf clubs in Florida and New Jersey.
The company has also looked into postponing payments to its largest creditor, Deutsche Bank, which it owes about $300 million for its D.C. hotel, the company’s Doral golf club in Florida and its skyscraper in downtown Chicago, according to the Times.
The Trump Organization further asked Palm Beach County in Florida about adjusting its lease payments for its golf club in West Palm Beach, the Times reported.
“In Florida, the very county that mandated we close is the very county collecting rent,” Eric told the paper. “What are they doing for others? Just treat us the same.”
More than 44,000 people have died from the coronavirus across the United States, according to the Times, while mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the virus have effectively shut down large swaths of the U.S. economy.
Forbes‘ latest assessment of the president’s net worth showed the coronavirus pandemic had cost him roughly $1 billion, largely because of his real estate assets — dropping his net worth from about $3.1 billion to $2.1 billion.
More than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last month while the stock market has seen historic turbulence.
“It’s hurting everybody,” Trump said during a March 21 press briefing. “There are very few businesses that are doing well.”
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.