The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Kuwaiti embassy returns to Trump hotel in D.C. for its national celebration

The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

For the second year in a row, the Kuwaiti embassy will hold a large National Day celebration at President Trump's hotel in downtown Washington.

An invitation obtained by The Washington Post said the event is scheduled to be held in the hotel ballroom the evening of Feb. 26. A source familiar with the plans, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the event is private, confirmed the details of the invitation.

Before Trump's election, Kuwait had held its National Day celebrations repeatedly at the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown — and asked the Four Seasons to reserve a day for the event to return in 2017. Then, after Trump won, Ambassador Salem al-Sabah switched the event to the Trump International Hotel — which opened in late 2016 on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

"I do not know President-elect Trump. Or his people. No one has contacted me about moving the event," Sabah said in late 2016. "It was solely done with the intention of providing our guests with a new venue. We have been holding the event at the Four Seasons for years. There is a new hotel in town, and we thought we would give it a try."

Sabah did not return requests for comment. A Trump Organization spokeswoman declined to comment.

The new Kuwaiti Embassy event was first reported on Friday by the website ThinkProgress.

After the 2016 election, the Trump hotel also hosted the embassy of Bahrain, which held a National Day party. The government of Azerbaijan co-hosted a Hanukkah party there.

Since then, those events have been cited in at least two lawsuits alleging Trump is violating the Constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments at his hotel. The Constitution bars federal officers from taking "emoluments" from foreign states.

On Thursday, a federal judge in Greenbelt, Md., heard arguments in one of those cases, a lawsuit against the president brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

"It is not mere speculation" Trump has received payments from foreign governments, Maryland attorney Steven Sullivan said at that hearing. "The president has received, is receiving, and will receive prohibited emoluments."

He listed the Kuwait event as proof.

In that case, the attorneys general of D.C. and Maryland are waiting to see if U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte will dismiss their case — or let it proceed and allow them to search records showing the Trump Organization's payments from foreign states.

"This is really all within the records of the Trump International Hotel," said Loren AliKhan, a deputy solicitor general for the District.

Neither Bahrain nor Azerbaijan, the two other countries that held embassy events at the Trump hotel after the election, returned for a second year.

Jordan Libowitz, at the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said he was not surprised the Trump Organization had continued to book events with foreign embassies — despite the trouble it has brought in court.

"If making money through potentially unconstitutional means [still] means making money, it doesn't seem to stop them," Libowitz said.

His group filed a separate lawsuit alleging these embassy events showed Trump was violating the "foreign emoluments clause." A federal judge threw it out in December, saying the group lacked legal standing to sue.