Back in February, the State Department spent more than $15,000 for the first family to stay at the Trump International Hotel in Vancouver. The enormous tab went toward booking 19 rooms at the new hotel, where members of Trump's family headlined its grand opening. The Washington Post obtained information about the hotel bookings through a Freedom of Information Act request, just revealed Thursday.
In attendance at the hotel's grand opening were two of the president's sons — Donald Jr. and Eric — along with their wives, and the president's youngest daughter, Tiffany. The Trumps attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 28, followed by a VIP party hosted by Malaysian developer Joo Kim Tiah. They were accompanied by a heavy security presence.
According to The Post, this more-than-$15,000 expense was the State Department's first such expense incurred at a Trump-brand property since Trump's inauguration in January. However, the State Department refused to provide any further information about its presence at the Trump hotel or about who stayed in the reserved rooms.
“Embassy and consulate personnel work with the Secret Service to provide assistance on security matters as necessary for conditions in the particular host country,” a State Department official told The Post. “Our policy is not to discuss the details of security matters.”
Secret Service spokesman Joseph Casey confirmed that although it is the agency's job to protect the president and his family, they do occasionally collaborate with the State Department "in facilitating our security plan” for international trips.
It is not the State Department's involvement that is controversial, however, insomuch as its dealings with a Trump-brand property. Although the Trump Organization — which is in a trust controlled by Donald Jr. and Eric — does not own the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, Trump has a licensing deal with the hotel and has reportedly earned $5 million in royalties from it since 2016.
This is also not the first time that the Trump Organization has benefited from Trump's presidency. Since Trump took office, his sons have gone on business trips to Dubai, Vancouver, Uruguay, and Ireland to promote Trump hotels and the family's business empire. As a result, the Secret Service has had to use taxpayer dollars to fund their protection, even though this money has indirectly fueled the promotion of the Trump brand.
Even before news of the State Department's expenditures in Vancouver broke, Walter Shaub, Jr. — the director of the Office of Government Ethics who just resigned — said that Trump needed to divest more completely from his business or risk the trust of the American people.
"You can't be sure, and so it almost doesn't matter whether they are profiting or not," Shaub told CBS News' Julianna Goldman last week. "America should have the right to know what the motivations of its leaders are, and they need to know that financial interests, personal financial interests, aren't among them."