Given the actual election results, you could expect the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., to stand all but empty on Inauguration Day, like some political version of The Shining.
The halls should be deserted, as if haunted by a maniacal figure announcing, “Here’s Donnie!!!”
But as Trump’s baseless falsehoods and groundless legal challenges proved futile, too many of his supporters have become only more determined to believe that it’s not over even when it’s truly over. And, on Monday, the delusion that Trump still might get a second term was so persistent among some Trumpoids that his hotel remained booked solid on the days surrounding the Jan. 20 ceremony.
The person who answered the reservation line reported that every room had been taken “for some time.” What Trump follower would not dream of staying in this late 19th century edifice of stone and colored brick with its 315-foot clock tower? Trump had opened the hotel just two months before the last presidential election, and he had lost millions on it since then despite the many lobbyists and foreign diplomats who sought the administration’s favor by staying there. But the hotel stood with that name TRUMP on it as if it belonged between the White House and Capitol, as if a TRUMP presidency were destiny. And you could be part of it by staying there.
Nobody who had attached themselves to such red-hatted greatness was likely to give it up easily. And the reservations clerk at the hotel on Monday advised that there was no way to predict when someone might cancel and create a vacancy between Jan. 16 and Jan. 21.
“You would have to keep checking,” she said.
She affirmed that anybody who does check in will at least technically be subject to the COVID-19 precautions mandated by the District of Columbia.
“You are required to wear a mask and observe social distance,” she said.
Those being the same simple measures by which Trump could have slowed the pandemic early on, saving hundreds of thousands of lives, along with his presidency. He tried to make people forget more than a quarter-million dead and think only of money. But then he encountered numbers that proved impervious to his lies.
He had always been able to lie about dollars, but votes were votes. And in the face of them Trump sought to lead a break from reality. He was assisted by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and others who questioned the integrity of the electoral process without any basis for doing so. They thereby went from suck-ups to accomplices in fostering a mass delusion.
Trump long ago embraced lawyer Roy Cohn’s strategy to deny, deny, deny no matter what. Trump is now fielding a second, bigger wave of lawyers not because there is any legal merit to his claims. He simply wants to create the illusion. He is seeking to turn his supporters into followers and have them embrace his biggest lie yet in the face of what is supposed to be our democracy’s most essential truth.
Still reserved for inauguration week at the hotel as of Monday were the standard rooms for $716 a night, along with upper-scale lodgings such as the 860-square-foot Ivanka Study for $1,545 a night and the 1,600-square-foot Postmaster Suite for $5,565 a night, as well as the 2,000-square-foot Franklin Suite for $10,565 a night.
The hotel said it would respond only to written inquiries regarding the rate and availability of the Presidential Suite, which occupies what was the office of the postmaster general when the building was the headquarters of the U.S. Postal Service.
“The former offices of the U.S. Postmaster General have been transformed into our exquisite 4,000 sq. ft. Presidential Suite, maintaining the carved emblems of the U.S. Postal Service in the window cornices of the master bedroom and living room, marble framed fireplace remains, and expansive windows that flood the suite with natural light,” the hotel’s website reports.
Only a non-believer would look at the Postal Service emblems in the cornices and think how the current postmaster general, big time Trump contributor Louis DeJoy, upended the Postal Service just as it was about to face an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots.
The hotel has a separate phone number for those interested in the presidential suite or what the website describes as the “6,300 sq. ft., the bi-level Trump Townhouse... the largest hotel suite in Washington.” A woman who came on the line Monday said its policy requiring written inquiries for the most exclusive suites is shared by other high-end hotels.
“Like the Four Seasons,” she suggested.
She no doubt meant the Four Seasons Hotel, not Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia, where the Trump campaign held an outdoor press conference on Saturday featuring Rudy Giuliani.
Actually, Giuliani would make the perfect occupant for the Trump International’s presidential suite on Inauguration Day. He would definitely add an extra scare to The Shining effect.
As Rudy continues to marshal an astonishing number of groundless legal actions, the hotel is still entangled in a lawsuit the District of Columbia attorney general filed at the time of the 2017 inauguration, where Trump was sworn in for his first and now only term. The suit charges that the officially nonprofit inaugural committee illegally enriched a private enterprise by paying the hotel more than $1 million to use the ballroom. That was not only above the market rate but also more than the hotel’s usual rate. The ballroom was used for only two events, one exclusively for the Trump children and their guests. Those involved in this example of the art of the steal included Ivanka Trump and future felon Rick Gates.
“It’s ongoing,” a spokesperson for the D.C. attorney general’s office said of the lawsuit on Monday.
What will not be ongoing is the Trump presidency. Those who hold reservations at the hotel for the inauguration and recover their senses may not be able to count on what the hotel says is its usual policy, which allows cancellations prior to 48 hours.
“Because each of our customers’ circumstances are unique, cancellations are handled on a case by case basis,” the hotel website says.
As the date draws nearer, it will be more of a nutcase-by-nutcase basis.
Meanwhile, the hotel remains completely booked. And if a host of deniers does show up for Inauguration Day, that will make for an even scarier scene than the deserted premises Stephen King imagined. You can almost hear those lost souls calling out down the halls and across the ballroom.