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Trump hotel looks to cash in on Biden inauguration

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Trump hotel looks to cash in on Biden inauguration

When asked the same question, Patricia Tang, a spokesperson for the hotel, referred POLITICO to the hotel’s website when asked if there are any special inauguration promotions.

“That’s all I have to comment, OK? You have a great New Year’s. Bye now!” Tang said before also hanging up the phone in the middle of a follow-up question. She didn’t reply to a follow-up email, but a reservation specialist said there were “plenty” of rooms available.

Trump has at times projected confidence that he’ll be able to overturn the election results, but there are few signs that his allies consider it a serious possibility. Major Trump donor Doug Deason, for instance, stayed at the hotel four years ago and said in an interview that he would stay there again if Trump somehow pulled out a win. But he was not aware of any plans to celebrate that vanishingly unlikely outcome at Trump’s Pennsylvania Ave. property, a buzzing hive of activity in 2017.

We’re getting tons of inquiries from Democrats for the inauguration, Trump hotel manager Mickael Damelincourt and food and beverage manager Daniel Mahdavian told Deason in mid-December, according to Deason. “They thought they were going to do very well.”

“I can’t imagine I’m invited [to Washington] if Biden” is inaugurated, Deason joked. Damelincourt and Mahdavian did not respond to requests for comment.

“The Trump is the nicest hotel in D.C. and most certainly the nicest hotel w/in the secure zone during the inauguration,” Deason added in a text message. “The Democrat guests will find it very comfortable and accommodating regardless of party affiliation.”

Trump’s 2017 inauguration led to the D.C. attorney general suing his inaugural committee and the Trump Organization arguing that the committee violated D.C. nonprofit laws by spending more than a million dollars to reserve a high-priced ballroom at the Trump hotel.

This may be the last inauguration for which Washington has a Trump hotel. The Trump Organization, run by President Donald Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., has tried to sell its lease for the property, but sales efforts have reportedly been put on hold after no offers came close to the $500 million asking price.

Other ritzy D.C. hotels, which have suffered during the slowdown in travel because of the pandemic, are also trying to capitalize on any Democrats coming to town for the much-scaled down inauguration.

The Hay-Adams hotel, which is close to the White House, has increased its rates up to $1,399 per evening around the inauguration, which is much higher than than the normal rates these days of a room in the mid to upper $300 range, according to its website, and a receptionist said that they have “certainly” seen some demand for rooms but declined to say how many people have purchased.

The St. Regis in downtown Washington also has hiked rates during the inauguration to at least $999 per night, which a similar room would often go for $399 per night.

With the inauguration hosting no actual inaugural balls, the Rosewood hotel in Georgetown is offering an “intimate inaugural ball” for up to six people in the presidential suite or one of their townhouses. The three-night package, which starts at $4,000 a night, offers a catered in-room screening of the ceremony, a reception with hors d’ oeuvres, and a three-course dinner with wine pairings. Samantha Lynch, a sales manager at the hotel, said they’ve received “a lot of interest but still have some availability.”

Because of the pandemic, the Biden inaugural committee is urging average Americans not to attend the inauguration, but said two weeks ago that Biden would be sworn in on the west side of the Capitol and will address the country from the platform. There will also be some type of parade, but there won’t be the traditional congressional luncheon.

There have been rumblings that Trump could announce that he plans to run again for president on Jan. 20 instead of attending his successor’s inauguration as outgoing presidents usually do. When previously asked about Trump’s Jan. 20 plans, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere told POLITICO: “Anonymous sources who claim to know what the President is or is not considering have no idea. When President Trump has an announcement about his plans for Jan. 20 he will let you know.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about its plans for the inauguration.

A Facebook group is organizing a “Donald J. Trump 2nd Presidential Inauguration Ceremony,” although what they have planned is unclear. More than 67,000 people have signed up for the event.

Although a number of Democrats escaped D.C. during Trump’s inauguration four years ago, some prominent Republicans haven’t decided if they are going to leave town this time to avoid Biden’s inauguration.

“We have made no decision,” said Matt Schlapp, a Trump ally and chairman of the American Conservative Union, in a text message. “We escaped w fellow conservatives for both Obama’s inaugurations to the [Virginia] mountains. Right now we are focused on Georgia and ending illegal voting nationwide.”

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‘This is your time’: Obama congratulates Biden before his inauguration

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'This is your time': Obama congratulates Biden before his inauguration

Former President Barack Obama congratulated President-elect Joe Biden ahead of the latter’s inauguration on Wednesday, telling his former vice president that “this is your time.”

As Biden was attending a church service alongside Congressional leadership ahead of his inauguration Wednesday, Obama sent his well wishes in a tweet.

“Congratulations to my friend, President @JoeBiden! This is your time,” Obama wrote online, accompanied by a photo of the two men together.

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Opinion | I Wrote President Obama’s Ethics Plan—Biden’s Is Better

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Opinion | I Wrote President Obama’s Ethics Plan—Biden’s Is Better

For example, take one of the centerpieces of the Obama plan: “Reverse” revolving door restrictions. Most ethics plans focus on officials leaving government, but in the Obama administration, we also imposed limits on those coming into government, with even tougher restrictions on ex-lobbyists. Trump’s executive order loosened those lobbying rules, lifting our limitation on lobbyists serving at an agency they lobbied. It is little wonder a flood of lobbyists inundated Trump’s administration—more than four times the number in just one Trump term than served under Obama in twice that time.

The Biden plan puts that core Obama restriction for lobbyists back in place, barring them from jobs in agencies they previously sought to influence. That makes sense: letting the fox into the henhouse he just stalked is simply too dangerous, as proved by the numerous controversies involving Trump officials who led agencies they once lobbied.

The new Biden plan not only fixes what Trump got wrong, it does the same for Obama’s ethics regime. For example, the Biden executive order adds a restriction on so-called golden parachutes—cash bonuses granted to executives as they leave a business to join the government. These windfalls create the perception that an ex-employee may favor her benefactor, and it is about time they ended. The Biden plan does that, restricting exit bonuses and requiring entering officials to certify that they have not accepted other benefits (such as deferred ones) in lieu of such packages. It goes well beyond existing law and is a strong step forward.

The new plan also builds on Obama’s in closing the revolving door on the other side of government employment: when employees leave. Federal law imposes a one-year limit on a departing senior official communicating on behalf of clients with the agency where the official worked. In the Obama administration, we extended that to two years, on the theory that an employer might pay an ex-official to do nothing for 12 months, but 24 months is a long time for cold storage. Trump eliminated the Obama extension, farcically declaring that his officials must follow the applicable statute—which they already had to do.

Here too, Biden not only restores the Obama restriction of two years, he goes further. Now not only are officials restricted from representing clients to their former agencies, they are also cordoned off from their peers in the White House itself. This recognizes the reality that senior agency officials engage with the White House constantly and have ties there too, not just at their former agency. This rule will restrict them from using the special access and influence that follows, and they should not be allowed to use it for private gain.

A number of other post-employment restrictions are added as well, including materially assisting others in making communications or appearances that ex-officials are prohibited from undertaking themselves under the pledge. Here the Biden plan again improves on the Obama ethics rules by closing a loophole for “shadow lobbying”— when former officials who might not themselves be able to meet with an agency prepare and strategize with their colleagues to do so instead. There is no reason that a former official should be able to do indirectly what they cannot do directly. The Biden plan also carries over one of the few good aspects of the otherwise spurious Trump plan: restricting former officials from working as an agent for a foreign country after leaving government. But Biden also goes farther, not allowing any former lobbyists for foreign countries from entering his administration.

The Obama plan gets another upgrade when it comes to one of its most controversial aspects: waivers. These are written authorizations that make an exception to the rules when doing so is in the public interest. While working for Obama, I learned from the controversy that erupted when I started authorizing waivers that they need to be tightly regulated and highly transparent. That’s why I’m glad to see the waiver provision of the Obama plan improved. That includes a new provision that waivers be made public within 10 days and imposing much more detailed rules guiding when waivers are appropriate. Above all, the new policy makes explicit that service as a public interest lobbyist may be taken into account in deciding whether a waiver shall be issued; there is no reason that someone who advocates on behalf of charitable causes should be on the same footing as a corporate lobbyist.

Not in Biden’s executive order but critically important to its success is another recently announced step: restoring the Obama-era policy of releasing White House visitor records that Trump ended. When everyone knows who is visiting the White House, its employees don’t schedule meetings they shouldn’t, and are too busy to sneak off campus for them (much). So the tough Biden ethics rules will be reinforced by the restored visitor records policy. While the specifics have not yet been released, arrangements should be made to reveal both in-person meetings and details of formal video conferences that would otherwise have been in person.

Is the new Biden plan perfect? Of course not. Even more restrictions could have been loaded on prior relationships coming into government and even longer exclusions onto officials leaving the administration. Corporate lobbyists could have been barred altogether, and public interest ones automatically waived in. But all of those strictures would have come at a cost of finding the right people to do the urgent work of government in a time of pandemic, economic crisis, domestic unrest and continued foreign war.

Biden’s ethics plan is the strongest, most ambitious swamp-draining plan ever. All of us will be watching to make sure it is scrupulously followed. If it is, cleaner government lies ahead—finally.

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Biden picks transgender doctor as assistant health secretary

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Biden picks transgender doctor as assistant health secretary

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated Pennsylvania health secretary Rachel Levine for assistant secretary of health at HHS, making her the first openly transgender federal official to be up for Senate confirmation.

A Harvard and Tulane-educated pediatrician, Levine emerged as the public face of her state’s pandemic response while also serving as president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She was appointed to her current post by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017 and has written on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBTQ medicine.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement.

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