NBC Airs Ominous Report Hyping Dem Claims of Trump Corruption

During a report for NBC’s Today show on Wednesday, Senior Investigative and Legal Correspondent Cynthia McFadden seized on Democrats accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution, recycling year-old claims about the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. flouting a ban on an elected officials receiving foreign payments.   

Introducing the segment, co-host Savannah Guthrie proclaimed that “critics” (i.e. Democrats) call the Trump Hotel in D.C. “the president’s biggest conflict of interest.” McFadden followed: “...the legal flashpoint comes over foreign governments that spend money at the Trump Hotel and 200 members of Congress [all Democrats] who say that is unconstitutional.”

 

 

The report began by sounding like an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, with McFadden declaring: “It’s the place to be if you’re a Trump supporter....Nicole DiCocco is a Trump loyalist....She drops into the hotel two or three nights a week....This is the Washington Suite, it costs over $3,000 a night and it is beautiful.”

However, it then took a dark turn as the reporter started reciting Democratic complaints about the hotel and foreboding music began playing in the background. Viewers could be forgiven if they thought they were suddenly watching a Dateline special tracking a serial killer. At one point, an ominous-looking picture of the hotel was featured on screen that reminded one of a haunted house or the Bates Motel.

McFadden warned:

But critics worry those who spend big bucks here at the hotel are really trying to curry favor with President Trump....NBC News did analyze Federal Election Commission filings and found that over the last two years PACS and Republican campaigns have spent over a million dollars at the hotel....But it’s the money spent by foreign governments that have ethics watchdogs reeling. NBC News also reviewed thousands of pages of registration forms of foreign agents.

She suggested one particular conspiracy theory: “They show that lobbyists working for Saudi Arabia spent $270,000 at the hotel. Just a few months later, President Trump took his first foreign trip there.”  After all, what other possible reason would there be for an American president to visit one of our closest allies in the Middle East?

A soundbite played from Democratic Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal: “I am very deeply concerned about the payments made to the Trump Hotel by Saudi Arabia.” McFadden chimed in: “That’s not all Senator Richard Blumenthal’s concerned about. He’s on one of 200 members of Congress suing the president for violating the Constitution by accepting foreign payments without the consent of the Congress.”

To her credit, the correspondent challenged Blumenthal on the partisan nature of the lawsuit: “Two hundred members of Congress is very impressive. They are all, however, Democrats. Is this just a political manipulation to try to tear down President Trump?” The liberal lawmaker used the question as an excuse to attack his GOP colleagues: “I’ll be very blunt, I wish we had some Republicans who would stand up and speak out and join us. And many of them have said privately, “Go for it.” But they’re unwilling to defy the president of their own party.”

As more creepy music played, McFadden worried:

Kuwait doesn’t seem to see any problems, its embassy held a glamorous party there two years in a row, costing tens of thousands of dollars. Azerbaijan and Bahrain have held parties there, too. NBC News found foreign government dignitaries all over social media enjoying a hotel.  From Lebanon, Jordan, and even the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Moments later, she noted: “It is clear the Trump International Hotel has been a good business for the Trump family. The president’s latest financial disclosure forms show $40 million in revenue from the hotel last year alone. Ivanka reports $3.9 million.”

At the end of the report, a brief response was included from the Trump Organization: “...they strongly maintain there is absolutely nothing unconstitutional about a foreign government paying for a hotel room. What his lawyers call ‘a routine business transaction’ having nothing to do with his presidency.”

Rejecting that explanation, McFadden concluded: “Now meanwhile, there is yet another lawsuit charging the hotel violates the Constitution, it is moving forward in federal court. So two points of view, it’s just business – ” Guthrie jumped in: “Or it violates the Constitution. Two different options there.” McFadden assured her: “And we have judges to make those decisions, yes.”

Here is full transcript of the August 8 report:

7:43 AM ET

CRAIG MELVIN: This morning on In-Depth Today, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C..

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: That’s right. It’s been in business for just about two years now. Critics call it the president’s biggest conflict of interest. So what really is the issue? NBC’s Senior Investigative and Legal Correspondent Cynthia McFadden is here with a closer look. Hi there.

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Good morning. Well, from a legal point of view, the legal flashpoint comes over foreign governments that spend money at the Trump Hotel and 200 members of Congress who say that is unconstitutional.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Trump Hotel Conflict of Interest?; News Questions Over Money Spent By Foreign Governments]

It’s the place to be if you’re a Trump supporter. If you had to sum up what the Trump International Hotel represents to Washington, what would you say?

NICOLE DICOCCO: I think it’s style, elegance, and glamour. A place to be seen and see people.

MCFADDEN: A sort of clubhouse for the Trump supporters?

DICOCCO: Yes.

MCFADDEN: Nicole DiCocco is a Trump loyalist, and one of a group of women who call themselves Trumpetes. She drops into the hotel two or three nights a week. If you’re looking for a member of the administration, you have a pretty good chance of finding somebody.

DICOCCO: Well, who doesn’t want to come and have a chance to see the vice president or the secretary of the Treasury or Kellyanne Conway.

MCFADDEN: Or for that matter, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Rudy Giuliani, or maybe even the president himself.

This is the Washington Suite, it costs over $3,000 a night and it is beautiful. But critics worry those who spend big bucks here at the hotel are really trying to curry favor with President Trump.

The Trump organization is a private company and who spent what here is hard to come by. NBC News did analyze Federal Election Commission filings and found that over the last two years PACS and Republican campaigns have spent over a million dollars at the hotel.

RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL [RNC CHAIR]: What an exciting night.

MCFADDEN: But it’s the money spent by foreign governments that have ethics watchdogs reeling. NBC News also reviewed thousands of pages of registration forms of foreign agents. They show that lobbyists working for Saudi Arabia spent $270,000 at the hotel. Just a few months later, President Trump took his first foreign trip there.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL [D-CT]: I am very deeply concerned about the payments made to the Trump Hotel by Saudi Arabia.

MCFADDEN: That’s not all Senator Richard Blumenthal’s concerned about. He’s on one of 200 members of Congress suing the president for violating the Constitution by accepting foreign payments without the consent of the Congress.

Two hundred members of Congress is very impressive. They are all, however, Democrats. Is this just a political manipulation to try to tear down President Trump?

BLUMENTHAL: I’ll be very blunt, I wish we had some Republicans who would stand up and speak out and join us. And many of them have said privately, “Go for it.” But they’re unwilling to defy the president of their own party.

MCFADDEN: Kuwait doesn’t seem to see any problems, its embassy held a glamorous party there two years in a row, costing tens of thousands of dollars. Azerbaijan and Bahrain have held parties there, too. NBC News found foreign government dignitaries all over social media enjoying a hotel.  From Lebanon, Jordan, and even the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

There’s no question that foreign governments have spent a lot of money here. The question is how much of that money the Trump organization has turned over to the U.S. Treasury. You’ll remember that President Trump pledged to give to the Treasury all profits from foreign governments at his 37 properties around the world. But the total tally his company actually gave in 2017? Only $151,000.

BLUMENTHAL: It’s a pathetic sham.

MCFADDEN: So $151,000 doesn’t sound like very much when you consider how many properties he owns around the world.

BLUMENTHAL: That donation is pathetically inaccurate and inadequate.

MCFADDEN: It is clear the Trump International Hotel has been a good business for the Trump family. The president’s latest financial disclosure forms show $40 million in revenue from the hotel last year alone. Ivanka reports $3.9 million. The Trump Organization declined to be interviewed, but in this statement they provided to NBC News, they strongly maintain there is absolutely nothing unconstitutional about a foreign government paying for a hotel room. What his lawyers call “a routine business transaction” having nothing to do with his presidency. They also say the $151,000 donation to the Treasury accurately reflects their profits from foreign governments.

DICOCCO: If you watch House of Cards, power is a lot like real estate. It’s location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the more power you have. So I think D.C. being a power culture, everyone wants to be in and around the Trump Hotel.

MCFADDEN: And it’s not just the Trump Hotel in Washington that has some critics concerned. Earlier this year, the Trump Hotel in New York got a huge revenue boost from the Saudi crown prince’s entourage, according to a letter from the general manager obtained by The Washington Post.

Now meanwhile, there is yet another lawsuit charging the hotel violates the Constitution, it is moving forward in federal court. So two points of view, it’s just business –  

GUTHRIE: Gotta stay somewhere. Or it violates the Constitution. Two different options there.

MCFADDEN: And we have judges to make those decisions, yes.

GUTHRIE: Thank you, Cynthia.

HODA KOTB: Thanks, Cynthia.


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