The Trump International Hotel in Washington’s Old Post Office building is about a half-mile down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. It’s too far and there are too many buildings and obstacles in between for the White House to be seen from rooms in the hotel.

Which makes this tweet from the hotel a little confusing:

That sure looks like the White House being gazed upon by the pajama-clad, hot-chocolate sipping man, lounging among some ornate drapes. (Aside: Good to see that Pajama Boy got a job.) Several people (including our David Fahrenthold) assumed that it was, that we were meant to believe that the White House had slipped a bit to the southeast or that the hotel had sprouted legs and migrated a few blocks to the northwest. We should not let this happen, by the way: It would be a very bad idea for very obvious reasons to put a hotel within a stone’s throw of the executive mansion.

But of course it didn’t happen. Large buildings are generally immobile. The photo appears to be not the White House but the Environmental Protection Agency, which is just across 12th Street from the hotel. What’s visible is the pediment at the center of the agency’s eastern facade.

This raises another set of questions.

Notice, for example, that the actual EPA building is much darker than in the hotel’s photo. It’s fairly trivial to adjust the lightness of an image in Photoshop, adjusting color levels and the amount of exposure. Here, let’s turn a brown house white.


But why? Why plant a lily-white EPA out the windows of the Trump hotel?

A key reason is that it works better aesthetically. Washing out the EPA building makes the focus of the photo the room instead of the building outside. By way of demonstration, here’s what the tweet would look like without the color adjustment.

Outside

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Pajama Man sitting at the center of the photo is meant to draw your attention; flooding the window with a large bureaucratic institution ruins that effect and the general composition.

Part of the effect may be a function of how the photo was shot. Since the outside is generally brighter than the inside, photographers try to adjust the lighting on a set to match. When they do so unsuccessfully, parts of the image may appear too dark or too light, as here.

Why the EPA building? There are lots of views from rooms at the hotel that don’t include the EPA and its White-House-esque facade. Some of them are terrible; the other side of Pennsylvania is home to some sadly generic office buildings. Few capture the “Washington” aesthetic as nicely as some columns and an elaborate pediment. When people think of D.C., they think of the Capitol or neoclassical buildings like the EPA building.

They think of buildings like the White House.

No one who was thinking about going to D.C. and who wanted to demonstrate fealty to Trump will stay at the hotel only because they have been reminded that he is in the White House. But clearly someone at the Trump Organization is happy to have people associate “Trump International Hotel in D.C.” with “The White House.” (Someone at the White House is probably happy to have people make that association, too.) There were a number of reports of the hotel seeing new business thanks to its namesake’s new job. A quiet reminder in the background of an advertisement certainly wouldn’t hurt.

So that’s the mystery of the Trump hotel ad. Not a mystery: The hotel is a mess of conflicts of interest that may mean that Trump is violating the Constitution.

Trickier to whitewash.