The governments of six countries spent more than US$750,000 (RM3.4 million) at the Washington hotel owned by former president Donald Trump while trying to influence his administration in 2017 and 2018, according to a congressional committee report released on Monday.
The spending – by officials from China, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates – was outlined in a report by the House Oversight Committee, which obtained documents from Mazars USA, Trump's former accounting firm.
Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York who chairs the committee, said the documents reveal that during the time the officials stayed at the Trump-owned hotel, "they were seeking to influence American foreign policy."
The documents, Maloney added, "sharply call into question the extent to which President Trump was guided by his personal financial interest while in office rather than the best interests of the American people."
According to the committee, a total of US$259,724 (RM1.19 million) was spent at the Trump hotel in September 2017 by then-prime minister Najib Razak and his entourage.
Najib stayed in the hotel's presidential suite for US$10,000 per night, the committee said, spending US$44,562 over three days and another US$1,500 on a personal trainer.
Najib and members of his family were under investigation by the Department of Justice at the time for looting 1MDB, the committee said.
It said that officials from Saudi Arabia and the UAE also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at the Trump Hotel in 2017 and 2018, while the governments of Turkey and China spent lesser amounts.
In a statement to The New York Times, Trump's son Eric Trump said profit earned on the hotel stays was returned to the federal government through an annual payment to the Treasury Department.
"As a company, we went to tremendous lengths to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest," Eric Trump said. "Not due to any legal requirement, but because of the respect we have towards the office of the presidency."
The Trump Organization sold the Trump International Hotel in Washington to an investor group in May 2022 for a reported US$375 million.
In January last year, the Supreme Court shut down lawsuits claiming that Trump violated constitutional bars against a president accepting income from foreign sources, saying the cases were moot since Trump had left the White House.
These cases stemmed from the so-called emoluments clause of the US Constitution, which prohibits public officials from receiving gifts, payments or titles from foreign states without permission from Congress.
Trump entrusted the management of his real estate empire to his sons after taking office in 2017, although he held onto his shares in the Trump Organization, which brought in US$435 million in revenue in 2018.