DC Trump hotel opens amid demonstration

With two weeks until Election Day, Trump formally unveils new DC hotel

By David Fishman

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump is coming to Pennsylvania Avenue, one way or another.

With just under two weeks to Election Day, the Republican presidential nominee took time off the campaign trail Wednesday morning to formally unveil his new hotel — a refurbished Romanesque post office just blocks from the White House. The towering building is a testament to the New York businessman’s political ambitions.

Speaking in the glittering “Presidential Ballroom,” Trump struck an unusually optimistic tone as he cut a red-felted ribbon using golden scissors.

“The United States is great,” Trump said onstage alongside his family. “Its people are great. There is no task or project too great, there is no dream outside of our reach. Don’t ever let anyone tell you it can’t be done. The future lies with the dreamers, not the cynics and the critics.”

The private opening was not pegged an official campaign event, though it succeeded in drawing protesters and big name politicians like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. The two avid Trump supporters, who spoke to reporters inside the hotel while protesters rallied outside, said the ribbon-cutting event fit well in their nominee’s narrative.

“It’s part of the campaign. … He wants to set this whole theme of under budget and ahead of schedule,” Gingrich said. “It’s understated how dramatically different an entrepreneurial,

(Kelly Norris/MNS)

driving personality would be in changing Washington.”

“This magnificent construction project … it’s the kind of thing America needs,” Sessions added.

After winning a 2012 competition to develop the Old Post Office, Trump signed a 60-year lease with the federal government and started construction. Throughout the election cycle, he has returned several times to oversee operations and promote the business.

If he wins, the 315-foot hotel could become a key Republican hangout just six blocks from Trump’s new office. If not, it will serve as a towering monument to America’s most unorthodox politician — one which will outlast at least seven presidencies.

As the election draws nearer — and polls show Trump falling behind Democrat Hillary Clinton — the Republican nominee has increasingly pivoted toward promoting his sprawling empire. On Monday, he launched a nightly news show on Facebook Live — fueling rumors about a future Trump network. On Tuesday, he corralled press to one of his lavish Florida properties and boasted, “One of the great places on earth.”

And on Wednesday, sandwiched between Florida and North Carolina, the campaign carved out time in an overwhelmingly Democratic city for this ceremonial “ribbon cutting” at a hotel that actually opened last month.

“Obviously Trump is trying to preserve his failing brand, because he knows that he’s not going to be president,” said Tim Miller, the former communications director for Jeb Bush. “Being in D.C. makes no sense.”

Miller said Trump should focus on boosting Republican turnout in states like Indiana and North Carolina and “lose the campaign with dignity.”

Nationwide polls have Trump down at least four points, prompting even his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway to admit being “behind.” But the Republican nominee Wednesday refused to acknowledge any disadvantage and pointed to his new hotel as a blueprint for his presidency.

“My job is to look at undeveloped spaces and imagine what they could be,” Trump said. “Today is a metaphor for what we can accomplish for this country.”

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Protestors, police clash outside Trump International Hotel unveiling

By Dan Waldman

WASHINGTON — Tamiya Small, 19, has lived in Washington most of her life, watching luxury hotels come and go. Yet she couldn’t help but express her disgust over Donald Trump’s ceremonial ribbon cutting Wednesday at his new International Trump Hotel.

“I’ve been living in poverty my whole life,” Small said. “And just to see a luxury hotel that I know I’m never going to be able to stay in is very disappointing.”

Small was joined by about 100 protesters outside the former U.S. Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue, hoisting signs to show support for immigrant workers and protesting systemic racism. Small said she was also protesting the choice location of the new hotel.

“There are many things we could have done with this space instead of building an expensive luxury hotel, which we have plenty of in the city,” Small said. “It’s bullshit and we could have done so much more.”

Small and her fellow protestors quarreled with U.S. Park Police. Lt. J.D. Hofflinger. He said the demonstrators were in violation of the permit they received from the National Park Service and had to move back from their spot in the plaza in front of the hotel.

“They got a permit from the National Park Service, and so the National Park Service ends right here,” Hofflinger said. “They just have to move maybe five to eight feet, that doesn’t seem a very unreasonable wish to me, but they’re very confrontational about it.”

Lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, represented the protestors. She argued that the police were encroaching on their First Amendment rights since the space in front of the hotel ”is a public plaza and belongs to the people.”

After Lt. Hofflinger disabled the protestors’ microphone, Verheyden-Hilliard told a reporter: “The park police are coming in, pulling the plug on the sound and telling people who are out here expressing their First Amendment right to demonstrate against Donald Trump that they must be silent on this plaza space and it belongs to the Trump organization.”

The federal government, which owns the property, entered into a long-term lease with Trump who turned the more than 100-year-old building into a luxury hotel.

Verheyden-Hilliard said the Trump organization actually filed for permits to take over the sidewalk outside Trump’s hotel to prevent demonstrations. Federal land in Washington, not otherwise designated, is considered parkland under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

Not all of the protestors outside the landmark were against Trump.

Don Davis, 57, who hails from Memphis, Tennessee, countered the anti-Trump protest, wearing a Make America Great Again t-shirt. Davis said he has supported Republican Trump because of his aggressive national security policy.

“I fear the country is on the brink of World War III,” he said “Trump will work with the Russians to prevent it.”

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