Monday, July 22, 2019

Trump Hotel correspondent, new journalistic job in Washington

Washington, Mar 21 (EFE).- The Trump International Hotel in Washington isn’t just any hotel. Things happen there that might pass unnoticed in the intrigue-filled US capital – from extravagant visits by politicians to secret trade negotiations – if it were not for the vigilant eye of journalist Zach Everson.

As an expert in the behind the scenes workings of this luxury hotel, which is owned by US President Donald Trump, it’s not surprising that this reporter thinks that following the daily activities in the building could be a rich source of juicy news about politics in Washington.

Everson has been working the Trump Hotel’s peculiar beat for a year now and has acquired as much, or more, knowledge as the best and most watchful concierge.

In his news bulletin – “11 Pennsylvania” – sent out by e-mail to his more than 2,000 subscribers, Everson documents the day to day activities in the building that resembles a medieval castle, where nothing that happens occurs by chance, given that Trump owns the property just a 10-minute walk from the White House.

Everson told EFE that he came to the hotel on the day it opened – right in the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign, some weeks before Trump won the election – and was struck by the fact that it was like no other hotel he had seen in his life.

“The mixture of politics and business was apparent right from the start,” Everson said, adding that the hotel completely changed the nature of “this stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue,” which “was mostly office buildings, a couple restaurants, but there was really wasn’t anything to draw people to this part.”

For example, last month one of the Nigerian presidential candidates, Atiku Abukabar, stayed here, having come to the hotel to show his supporters back home that he had not been banned from entering the US as a result of an old corruption case against him.

Everson said that Abukabar came to the hotel and livestreamed a town hall meeting with Nigerian citizens living in Washington and, although he could not meet with Trump, “it was a good way to get the (US) president’s name out there” for use in his campaign.

And he only had to pay “a few thousand dollars” to do so, Everson said ironically.

Although many of the visits by movers and shakers – or wannabees – quickly become anecdotes, others show that the hotel has become a key fixture in Washington.

T-Mobile president John Legere was at the hotel “THE DAY after” the firm’s merger with Sprint was announced, said Everson regarding the deal between two of the biggest US mobile phone companies that needed the green light from Trump.

On that occasion, Everson got images of Legere “passing the time” in the hotel restaurant.

A few months later, The Washington Post reported that the visits to the hotel by T-Mobile executives had continued after Legere’s stay and, according to Everson’s investigation, the mobile telephone company has spent some $200,000 there.

One might think, but admittedly it’s not clear, that Trump keeps himself up to the minute on what’s cooking at the Washington version of his worldwide chain of hotels.

Certain rumors are that the president receives a periodic report from the hotel’s managers, but since “the hotel denied it … we don’t know if that’s true or not,” said Everson.

“What we do know is that people are definitely coming to the hotel thinking that might be the case,” he added.

Specifically, one of the hotel’s main customers is Vice President Mike Pence, who has spent more than $220,000 in the last two years at the facility via his political action committee.

The Kuwaiti Embassy is also among the hotel’s regular clientele, celebrating its National Day there each year since Trump’s election.

The Kuwaitis used to hold the event at another venue much farther from the White House, both in terms of distance and influence, but they changed their plans in 2017 and transplanted the celebration to Trump International.

Despite the high-caliber you-might-see-almost-anyone atmosphere permeating the hotel, however, Everson admitted that visible news is not necessarily being made here every day, saying “I was here yesterday, for example, and I saw absolutely nothing of interest.”