Shortly after US President Donald Trump’s election victory in 2016, lobbyists working on behalf of Saudi Arabia’s government paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for rooms in his hotel, a new report has revealed, shedding more light on the American leader’s ties to Riyadh.
According to Press TV, it was first revealed in June that Saudi lobbyists had paid Trump’s hotel in Washington, DC, more than $270,000 to accommodate US military veterans who were offered free trips to the Capitol Hill as part of an influence campaign aimed at convincing American lawmakers to ignore Saudi Arabia’s role in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
In September 2016, US Congress had overridden a veto from then President Barack Obama and passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, called JASTA, which opened the door to a legal case alleging that the Saudi government played a role in the deadly attacks that killed 32,000 people.
Of the 19 plane hijackers involved in the attacks against the World Trade Center towers, 15 were Saudi citizens.
The Washington Post revealed more details about the payments on Wednesday, noting that the US-based lobbyist group Qorvis/MSLGROUP had reserved blocks of rooms at Trump’s luxury hotel an estimated 500 nights.
The rooms cost $768 per night and were reserved for six separate groups of veterans from across the country.
Qorvis/MSLGROUP, which has long represented the Riyadh regime, admits paying more than $190,200 for lodging, $78,204 for catering and roughly $1,600 for parking at the Trump International Hotel.
Some of the veterans who stayed at Trump’s hotel said they were never informed of the role Saudis had in organizing the trips. Some also wondered whether they were used not just to forward Riyadh's agenda but also to deliver business to the Trump Organization.
The organizers, however, have denied the charges, saying they only chose Trump’s hotel because of its discounts.
Citing organizers of the trips and various documents, the Post claimed that the extent of the transactions was much bigger than initially thought.
The payment is viewed as further evidence of Trump’s collusion with Riyadh, an allegation that has gained more traction after the Republican president’s refusal to punish Saudi Arabia over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the ongoing war against Yemen.
These transactions also provide ammunition for plaintiffs in two different lawsuits that accuse Trump, a businessman-turned-politician, of violating the US Constitution by taking payments from foreign governments.
Earlier this year, the Trump Organization donated about $151,000 to the US Treasury as the amount of profit it made from dealings with foreign governments.
The transactions are also expected to face extra scrutiny from the House of Representatives after the new Democratic majority takes over in January.