What did the Trump family see when they traveled across the country during the presidential campaign? The short answer is dollar signs. The Trump organization announced a new mid-grade chain of hotels named “American Idea” on Monday, which will debut in Mississippi. According to the Washington Post, President Trump’s son, Donald Jr., referred to their election tour as “crash-course in America” in which they “saw so many places and so many towns and heard so many stories that were so touching. People that were so excited about the prospect of this country and Americana in general.”
He continued with, “We started talking, Eric and I, as brothers, and saying, ‘You know what, there’s something here, there’s a market here that we’ve been missing our entire lives by focusing only on the high end”.
You read that right. Rather than hearing stories and thinking about what their father could do to positively impact people’s lives, Trump’s sons saw a hole in their family’s hotel market and an ability to capitalize on American nostalgia. “Make America Great Again” worked in winning the White House, why not expand the strategy to paying customers? Consider this your daily reminder that what motivates the first family is money.
The Trump name won’t be used in the “American Idea” chain, just like the four-star boutique line they announced last year under the brand “Scion”. With the three-star hotels, a family business named Chawla Hotels will own and manage the properties, but they will pay royalties and other fees to the Trump organization. According to the New York Times, the new brand will differentiate itself by including American artifacts, “such as an old Coca-Cola machine in the lobby or American-made sundries in the rooms”.
Doesn’t that sound swell? After covering the 2016 election for the Huffington Post, I can agree that there is a serious need for better hotels outside of major cities. I remember the smell of mold and chunks of dirt in the bathtub at a particular Clarion Hotel like it was yesterday. But nothing about the announcement of this new chain infers that improving quality is at the heart of the new venture. In fact, the New York Times reports that the first properties will involve rebranding existing Holiday Inns and Comfort Inns. And so the faux populism continues, this time in the form of cheap hotel rooms.
The potential conflicts of interest continue to pile up for this administration. The Trump hotel in Washington D.C. has come under intense scrutiny, starting with diplomats booking up rooms immediately following the election. Questions of corruption have carried through to this week, with news of Trump’s Interior Secretary using it as a meeting ground with a trade oil group and lobbying reports showing $270,000 worth of payments from Saudi Arabia. There are also international concerns that raise questions, like Trump’s affinity for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and the family’s new development in the country. Meanwhile the public is supposed to believe that while the President never divested from his business, he is no longer involved because his sons, Eric and Donald Jr. are running the day to day operations.
These examples are why I’ve consistently argued that the most the troubling aspects of a Trump presidency lie in his global business interests. While the Russia scandal keeps heating up, and there very well may be a smoking gun, questions about Trump’s loyalty most likely have more to do with his bottom line than fealty to any foreign leader. It’s always been Trump first, not America. Watch lawsuits over the emoluments clause carefully, as they could be the real key to driving a stake into the heart of this White House.