For the past five years, the Romanian Consulate in Chicago had held its national day celebration at the Chicago Cultural Center, a 120-year-old city landmark.
This year, the consulate chose a new venue: the Trump International Hotel & Tower.
That event, held Nov. 29, brought more than 300 people to a meeting room at the hotel along the Chicago River, which President Trump still owns.
The event included a speech by Consul General Tiberiu Trifan, plus musical performances and a reception, according to a posting on the consulate’s website.
The event was first reported by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group.
That event — sponsored by an arm of Romania’s government — came at a time when President Trump’s company is already facing scrutiny over its dealings with foreign governments.
In two pending lawsuits, plaintiffs have alleged that Trump is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clauses. Those are anti-corruption measures that bar presidents from taking improper payments from foreign governments or individual U.S. states.
So far, those cases have focused primarily on Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington.
The Philippines, Kuwait and Bahrain have held embassy events there. Lobbyists for the Saudi government rented more than 500 rooms there after Trump was elected in 2016. Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, was spotted having breakfast at the hotel in 2017 during an official visit to Washington.
Trump’s Chicago hotel, far from Washington’s embassy party circuit, has not faced the same scrutiny.
Attempts to reach Trifan, the consul general, were unsuccessful this week. The Romanian Embassy in Washington declined to comment.
Neither the Trump Organization nor the White House responded to requests for comment Tuesday.
Jordan Libowitz, of the ethics watchdog group, said this was the first time his researchers had found a foreign-government event there.
“It raises the question about whether the event [location] was switched to try to curry favor with the president,” Libowitz said.
“This is a cloud that hangs over all the Trump Organization’s business dealings,” Libowitz said, because foreign governments may patronize Trump’s businesses as a relatively cheap way to try to influence American foreign policy.
In Illinois, a spokeswoman for outgoing Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) said Madigan was “closely following” the two existing emoluments clause lawsuits. But the spokeswoman said Madigan had “not taken any action” to probe foreign-government spending at the Chicago hotel.