The Philippine government is hosting an event in the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. this coming June amid ongoing concern that the property is being used as a conduit to gain influence with the president.
The event is being billed as “a Reception to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence” and is being hosted, formally, by “The Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines.” A copy of the invitation was obtained by The Daily Beast. A spokesperson for the Philippine embassy confirmed the details of the invitation.
The event comes as the Philippines seeks a new trade deal with the United States, an agreement that Trump has pledged to consider but on which he has yet to finalize a decision.
While running for office, then-candidate Donald Trump said he would cordone himself off from his private business matters in order to avoid potential conflicts of interests. But after his election, he put his assets in a trust that he could access at any time and handed over control of his company to his children. In order to keep up the veneer of propriety, the Trump Organization said that it would regularly write the Treasury Department a check for the amount of profits its hotels generate from the business done there by foreign officials. It did so in February, with a check totalling $151,470.
But even if the Trump Organization is merely breaking even on deals with foreign governments, good government groups warn that the arrangement raises ethical red flags. In particular, organizations with any business before the U.S. government will feel compelled to use the Trump International while in D.C., lest they draw the ire of the president.
Some foreign governments have indeed spent lavishly at Trump properties while pursuing discrete U.S. policy goals. The government of Saudi Arabia, for instance, dropped about $270,000 at Trump’s Washington hotel in late 2016 and early 2017, as it sought to roll back a law that would allow victims of terrorist attacks to sue state sponsors of terrorism.
Manila already has close relations with the Trump family. The Filipino trade envoy is developing the Trump Tower Manila. Trump, meanwhile, has been one of the few vocal supporters of the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte, praising the strongman for his policy of murdering drug dealers and even inviting him to visit the White House last spring.
The completion of a trade deal would further solidify those ties. Duterte, who has yet to come to Washington D.C., brought up the topic in a conversation with Trump late last year. “The United States welcomed the Philippines’ interest in a bilateral free trade agreement and both sides agreed to discuss the matter further,” the White House said in a November statement.