USDA reports almost $12,000 spent at Trump hotel
August 21, 2018
The Agriculture Department spent more than $12,000 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington between November 2016 and September 2017, according to figures released by the Agriculture Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from NBC News.
Of the money, $2,700 was spent just days before the presidential election, and more than $9,000 was spent the week after, during the transition between administrations. Only $85 was spent there by USDA in the reported time period after Donald Trump took office as president, a spokesman for Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told The Hagstrom Report late Monday.
The spokesman, Tim Murtagh, said USDA had released the information to NBC News, which ran a story earlier Monday about both public and private sector spending at the hotel owned by the Trump Organization. The story did not differentiate between spending by USDA during the Obama administration and the Trump administration.
The hotel had its grand opening less than two weeks before election day.
The last expenditure in the USDA response to the FOIA request was Sept. 7, 2017. It is not known when NBC made the request or what exact time period the request covered.
"After sending FOIA requests to more than 70 government agencies, NBC News found that almost $56,000 taxpayer dollars have been spent at the hotel, more than $29,000 of which were spent by the Department of Defense," NBC reported.
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"Almost $12,000 was spent by the Department of Agriculture, more than $9,000 by the Internal Revenue Service, and more than $1,700 was spent by the General Services Administration, which oversees the lease with the Trump Organization," NBC said.
The hotel is located in the Old Post Office Building, which is still owned by the federal government.
In an email, Murtagh said, "Attached you will find the info we gave NBC. As you can see, it adds up to a grand total spent by USDA of $11,985.35 (if my own math is correct)."
Murtagh noted that each transaction has a date noted.
"This is where NBC's reporting breaks down," Murtagh said. "What NBC did not report was that, of that total figure, $11,900.35 of it was spent during the Obama administration. Or, 99.3 percent of the total.
"Only $85 has been spent during this administration. This $85 is from two transactions at the hotel, neither of which was conducted by a political appointee.
"If the national news media wants to know why people are losing trust in it, here is a perfect example. In soccer, this would be called an 'own goal,' because they tried to create an appearance of a conflict of interest on USDA's part, but instead produced a terrible piece of incomplete, shoddy, misleading journalism."
Of the $11,900.35 spent at the Trump hotel during Obama's last months, all but $2,733.92 was spent the week after the Nov. 8 election, raising the possibility that it could still be considered a conflict of interest, no matter who was in the White House, for federal agencies to patronize a hotel owned by the president-elect.
USDA expenditures at Trump hotel before election
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service — $8.80 (restaurant)
U.S. Forest Service — $2,725.12 USDA expenditures at Trump hotel during transition
Agricultural Marketing Service — $2,709.07
Rural Development — $4,167.80
Risk Management Agency — $2,289.56 USDA expenditures at Trump hotel after Trump in office
U.S. Forest Service — $65 (BLT Prime restaurant)
Natural Resources Conservation Service — $20 (BLT Prime)