In the days around Donald Trump’s inauguration, the hotel bearing his name in downtown Washington, D.C., quietly settled two liens totaling more than $3 million for allegedly unpaid construction work. In one case, a contractor reached an agreement after receiving a phone call from someone his attorney identified as “Trump.”
The liens had both been previously reported. But their settlements had not. And the fact that they were handled right around the time when Trump took office—perhaps even at the behest of the then-president-elect himself—underscores just how politically sensitive the management of the Trump International Hotel was and is to the current White House occupant.
The largest payment was made to Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. The family-owned D.C.-based company had filed a lien for $2.98 million on Dec. 21, 2016, for “the unpaid balance for work done” on the hotel, dating from that day back through Sept. 9, 2014, according to court filings. Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. had done “plumbing, mechanical, and HVAC work, along with the site sewer, water, storm, and water services” per the notice. It also provided the labor and materials required to complete that work.
The company had been featured in a Washington Post article about various liens against Trump’s hotel in D.C. that continues to garner a ton of social media notice. In a previous Post article, John D. Magnolia, the company’s president, noted that he had voted for Trump and felt the Trumps had been “decent people” to work with. But, he added, “Mr. Trump and Ivanka [Trump, who oversaw the hotel project] and so forth, they are I guess preoccupied by other matters now.”
Shortly after that interview, in which he noted that he had supported Trump, Magnolia’s company was finally paid. And it might have been at the behest of the soon-to-be-president himself.
Magnolia’s attorney, Michael P. Darrow, told The Daily Beast, that “Trump actually called my client the day before the inauguration and they reached an agreement over the phone. So I was instructed to close out. I never was privy to the exact terms but JJM I believe got most of their $$$.” When asked via phone to clarify if by “Trump” he meant the president-elect or a different representative of the organization, Darrow declined to comment. Instead he referred inquiries to John D. Magnolia, saying, “He may well be willing to chat with you, cause it’s a fascinating story.” Via Darrow though, Magnolia declined to comment.
While Magnolia’s company received what appears to be an amicable settlement, another subcontractor for the Trump International Hotel in D.C. did not. A&D Construction sought $79,700 in unpaid bills for woodwork (including the hotel’s crown molding). Richard M. Sissman, an attorney for the family-owned subcontractor based in Sterling, Virginia, said he had conversations with representatives of the Trump Organization regarding the lien, but not Donald Trump himself. He ended up negotiating with the hotel’s general contractor and reached an agreement around Feb. 22. But it didn’t end particularly well for his client who, unlike Magnolia, had not publicly stated that he supported Trump.
“He didn’t walk away very happy, let me put it to you that way,” said Sissman. “But he needed the money.”
In addition to Trump’s D.C. hotel’s settlements with Magnolia and A&D, Maryland-based AES Electrical dismissed its $2 million lien against the Trump hotel in March 2017 following settlement talks, BuzzFeed reported. No details about any settlement were disclosed. Over the phone, a representative for AES Electrical’s attorney said, “She won’t be able to give you any information on that, I’m sorry.”
White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters referred questions about the liens to the Trump Organization; the Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment.