‘It should never have been sent to the PIC. That’s misuse of funding,’ says government witness Stephanie Winston Wolkoff
Donald Trump was inaugurated as US president in 2017
An unpaid hotel bill could drag Donald Trump’s company back into a major lawsuit over his inauguration expenses, a news report says.
According to the lawsuit, brought by the attorney general of Washington, DC, the 2017 inauguration booked $49,358 worth of rooms at the Loews Madison Hotel. But when the hotel asked the Trump Organization to pay the bill, the company allegedly refused.
A debt collection agency then took up the task of recovering the money, and began pressuring the Trump Org to pay up. In response, the company reportedly arranged for the Presidential Inaugural Committee – a tax-exempt charity – to pay the bill instead. The DC lawsuit says this was inappropriate.
“It was their friends. It should never have been sent to the PIC. That’s misuse of funding,” Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, the government’s lead witness in the case, told The Daily Beast. “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.”
Ms Wolkoff, who was once a close adviser to Melania Trump, coordinated many of the 2017 inaugural events. According to the Beast, she fell out with the Trumps after they scapegoated her for the controversial expenses, in her view. (In 2020, Ms Wolkoff wrote an unflattering book about the First Lady, titled Melania and Me.)
DC’s Democratic attorney general, Karl Racine, launched his lawsuit in 2020, arguing that the Trump Organization improperly used the inauguration to enrich itself by booking lavish spaces at its own hotels.
But a year later, a judge dealt a serious blow to that case. In November 2021, DC Superior Court Judge José López ruled that the Trump Organization was not directly involved in booking the inaugural events, and dropped the company from the lawsuit.
The unpaid $49,000 hotel bill could bring it back in. According to The Daily Beast, this is now the focus of the lawsuit.
“The Trump Organization was liable for the invoiced charges,” Mr Racine’s office wrote in a court filing, according to The Washington Post. “The [Inaugural Committee’s] payment of the invoice was unfair, unreasonable and unjustified and ultimately conferred improper private benefit to the Trump Organization.”
The former president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has called Mr Racine’s lawsuit “a politically motivated demonstration of vindictiveness & waste of taxpayer dollars.”
The Independent has reached out to the Trump Organization for comment.
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