Democrats probing whether groups booked Trump hotel rooms to earn president’s favor: report

House Democrats are reportedly investigating allegations that groups, including a foreign government, booked rooms at President Trump’s hotels without intending to use them but instead to gain the president’s favor.

Politico reports that the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s probe, which is part of the chamber’s formal impeachment inquiry against the president, aims to see whether Trump violated the law by taking money from U.S. or foreign governments at his properties.

The newspaper reported Wednesday that the panel received information that a trade association and a foreign government had each booked a large chunk of rooms at Trump hotels but only used a small portion of them, prompting the probe.

“Now we’re looking at raw bribery. That was the risk from Day One: foreign governments and others trying to seek favor because we know Trump pays attention to this … It’s an obvious attempt to curry favor with him,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who sits on the panel, told Politico.

“At minimum, this suggests there is a culture of corruption that the administration has created,” House Oversight member Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told the newspaper. “There’s a sense that to curry favor you have to engage in pay to play. That’s exactly what the American people hate about Washington.”

It’s unclear what groups or foreign entity may have been involved in the allegation, or what properties may be at the center of the congressional scrutiny.

Politico reported that Connelly confirmed that staff on the committee were investigating but he did not have details about the allegation.

The Oversight Committee, the White House and the Trump Organization did not respond to Politico’s requests for comment. The Hill has also reached out to each for comment.

The Constitution bars a president from being able to profit from foreign governments as well as the U.S. government, other than through their salary, though Trump has denied any wrongdoing associated with his hotels.

After Vice President Pence became engulfed in controversy last month after staying at Trump’s Doonberg property in Ireland, Trump said: “I have a lot of hotels all over the place, and people use them because they’re the best.”

The news of the investigation comes after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week directed six committees, including Oversight, to investigate Trump as part of the chamber’s impeachment inquiry.

House Democrats are still debating whether to focus their impeachment inquiry almost exclusively on Trump pressuring Ukraine’s president to try to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden — or expanding the scope to include Trump, his administration and his businesses.

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