Donald Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C., went up for sale this month, with bids to take up the president’s 60-year lease on the federally owned Old Post Office due last Thursday. But while the winning bidder’s plans for the hotel likely won’t be known for a while, MAGA activists are already mourning the expected loss of what has become the capital’s social center for Trumpism.
“It’s the place to see and be seen when you’re in D.C.,” said Jacob Engels, a conservative political operative and protégé of former Trump adviser Roger Stone.
On Twitter, self-proclaimed “Democrat to Deplorable” pro-Trump personality John Goldman, who uses the name “Jack Murphy” online, lamented the hotel’s end.
“What will happen to the MAGA Networking and Social Scene in Washington DC then?” Goldman wrote. “There’s nothing like the Trump Hotel. Nor will many places be as accommodating.”
The Trump Organization didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Since opening in September 2016, the Trump International has become Washington’s hub for all levels of MAGA-world, from Cabinet secretaries and the president himself to hangers-on and red-hat-wearing tourists. The hotel’s lobby—ornate and ostentatious in typical Trumpian fashion—is a place to meet up with other Trump fans, and grab selfies with prominent officials and right-wing personalities. It’s also a place where Trumpists believe they’ll be protected from the kind of liberal hecklers who confronted then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at a downtown restaurant in 2018—a kind of political Green Zone in an otherwise hostile city.
But that all seems destined to end. Whoever wins the bid to take over Trump’s lease with federal government is likely to ditch the Trump branding. Promotional materials advertising the lease sale obtained by The Washington Post noted that a new operator could have more success “unencumbered” by Trump’s name.
“Awful color scheme and over-priced drinks aside, the Trump Hotel was one of our few sanctuaries in a city adverse to MAGA folks,” Lucian Wintrich, a former White House correspondent for right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit, told The Daily Beast.
In addition to being a MAGA hub, the hotel has also played into various Trump intrigues. Democrats have accused Trump of using foreign government room rentals to violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause, while the District of Columbia’s local government sued Trump’s inaugural committee on Wednesday for alleged overspending at the hotel in an apparent attempt to line the Trump family’s pockets. Robert Hyde, the previously little-known Trump donor and landscaper accused of surveilling former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, appears to have leveraged a regular presence in the Trump International’s lobby into selfies with various Trumpworld personalities. Those seeking to influence the administration have done so by patronizing Trump International.
And yet, through it all, the hotel has still struggled to fill its rooms. In November, the Post reported the Trump International had only filled roughly half of its rooms throughout the year and lagged behind competing hotels in its occupancy rate, according to financial documents provided to potential buyers.
“Trump selling almost feels like a final slight to his D.C. supporters,” Wintrich said.
Lacking a meeting spot, distraught Trump fans could end up congregating a few blocks north at Shelly’s Back Room, a cigar bar popular with Trump-themed events, or Harry’s Pub, a bar known for hosting fringier Trumpworld personalities.
“If it falls out of Trump hands and goes to someone else, I think you’ll find everybody in the movement enjoying cheap drinks and a good time at Harry’s,” said Engels.
But Harry’s is a notably downmarket option when compared to the Trump International, where the cheapest cocktail—which doesn’t even come with liquor—sells for $18. Last year, members of the far-right Proud Boys group nearly got in a confrontation with Republican House candidate Omar Navarro at Harry’s, allegedly over Navarro’s treatment of his ex-girlfriend.
“The hoity-toity, snobby, hangers-on from administrations past who just like the fancy titles and ritzy surroundings of Trump International, I don’t think they will lower their station and come to Harry’s,” Engels said.
Whatever a new operator does with the Trump International, the scene of young internet-based Trump supporters who once congregated in the lobby has already started to fade. Many of the pro-Trump provocateurs who once orbited the Trump International have since fallen out with one another, driven away by personal feuds or Twitter sniping.
Wintrich, whose ability to obtain White House press credentials once caused a stir in the early Trump era and made him a regular in the Trump International’s buzzing lobby, has moved back to New York City.
“That whole scene and crowd kind of dissolved,” he said.