T-Mobile Trump hotel, “lin[ing] the president’s pockets,” lawmakers say.
T-Mobile USA says it has spent $195,000 at President Trump’s hotel in Washington, DC, over the past 10 months while it has lobbied for government approval of its proposed merger with Sprint. CEO John Legere and fellow executives have repeatedly stayed at the Trump International Hotel since announcing the merger in April 2018, despite reporting just one visit to the hotel prior to that time.
The revelation, reported first by The Washington Post today, is contained in a letter T-Mobile sent to two members of Congress.
“As best as we have been able to determine, the total amount spent by all T-Mobile employees, including [CEO John] Legere and his leadership team, for all expenses for stays or meetings at the Trump International Hotel in Washington between April 2018 and the present is approximately $195,000,” T-Mobile wrote on February 21. “These hotel expenses cover a variety of types of business-related activities and include many categories of costs, including the cost of meeting space, catering, business center services, audio/visual equipment rental, lodging, meals, taxes and other incidental expenses.”
Rooms at the hotel start at around $500 a night, while “executive” suites cost more than $1,200 and “premier suites” more than $1,500, based on prices we found in an online search today.
Visits began day after merger announcement
T-Mobile announced its deal to buy Sprint for $26 billion on April 29, 2018, and since then has been seeking merger approval from the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission. In January this year, a Post investigation found that T-Mobile executives began a string of visits to Trump’s hotel a day after announcing the merger. Follow-up reporting revealed that T-Mobile executives had booked at least 52 nights at the hotel.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) sent a letter to Legere asking a series of questions about the hotel visits, and T-Mobile revealed the $195,000 figure in a response to that letter.
“The American people deserve better than an administration that appears to be for sale to businesses eager to line the president’s pockets,” Warren and Jayapal said in a joint statement today.
“These transactions raise questions about whether T-Mobile is attempting to curry favor with the president through the Trump Organization and exacerbate our concerns about the president’s continued financial relationship with the Trump Organization,” the lawmakers had written in their letter to Legere.
“T-Mobile respects the regulatory process”
T-Mobile’s response, written by VP of Federal Legislative Affairs Anthony Russo, noted that the $195,000 is “approximately 14 percent of the $1.4 million T-Mobile incurred at hotels in Washington, DC during the same period for travel and other business-related activities.” T-Mobile said it spent $750,000 at Hilton hotels in DC in the same period.
But T-Mobile executives hardly ever stayed at Trump’s DC hotel before announcing their Sprint merger. Warren and Jayapal asked T-Mobile to disclose any visits to Trump’s DC hotel prior to April 29, 2018. T-Mobile’s reply letter identified just one such visit, when Legere and a member of his leadership team stayed overnight at the Trump hotel on August 30, 2017.
“I want to reiterate, as we indicated in our initial response, that T-Mobile respects the regulatory review process underway concerning our pending merger with Sprint,” Russo wrote to Warren and Jayapal. “The Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission are giving this transaction a thorough and objective analysis. While we understand that staying at Trump properties might be viewed positively by some and negatively by others, we are confident that the relevant agencies address the questions before them on the merits.”
Legere previously sent a reply letter, with fewer details, to Warren and Jayapal. Warren’s office provided a copy of the letter to Ars.
“I travel extensively while fulfilling my duties as the CEO of T-Mobile US and choose my hotels based on availability, security, meeting facilities and proximity to the activities scheduled in that city,” Legere wrote. “Since your interest is specifically associated with Trump hotel properties, I have stayed at Trump properties in Chicago, New York and Washington, DC. In Washington, DC the Trump hotel is located close by my company office located at 601 Pennsylvania Avenue and the Department of Justice.”
Legere answered “no” to the question of whether T-Mobile’s visits to the Trump hotel were part of its strategy to obtain merger approval.
Legere has said he expects to obtain merger approval by the end of June.
Legere swore off Trump hotels in 2015
As we noted in previous coverage, Legere swore off Trump hotels in 2015 after Trump wrote on Twitter that “T-Mobile service is terrible” and “I don’t want it in my buildings.” Legere subsequently criticized Trump’s hotels in two tweets, which he has since deleted.
The Warren/Jayapal letter to Legere said, “you had a particularly high profile during your stay [one day after the merger announcement], walking the lobby in an outfit described as ‘a walking billboard for T-Mobile,’ posing for Instagram pictures, and, during a later stay, meeting in the lobby with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.” The lawmakers also wrote that the use of Trump’s hotel seemed unusual given Legere’s previous mockery of a Trump hotel in New York.
In his response to Warren and Jayapal, Legere said that he always wears T-Mobile clothing.
“As a disruptor in the wireless industry and someone who is fighting for our customers and employees I have chosen to personally represent them and the T-Mobile brand that I am so proud of,” Legere wrote. “My entire wardrobe is made up of T-Mobile clothing and it represents me and my passion for this company—and it has proven to be an effective advertising and marketing strategy.”
The Trump hotel in DC opened on September 12, 2016, less than two months before Trump won the presidential election. The hotel is less than a mile from the White House. Eric Trump is running the hotel business while his father serves as president.