What We Read This Week: Our Investigative News Roundup
By David Crook, DCReport Managing Editor
Plenty of Rooms at the Inns
House investigators are looking into an allegation that groups — including at least one foreign government — tried to ingratiate themselves to Donald Trump by booking rooms at his hotels but never staying in them, reports Politico.
It’s a previously unreported part of a broad examination by the House Oversight Committee, included in Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, into whether Trump broke the law by accepting money from U.S. or foreign governments at his properties. “Now we’re looking at near raw bribery,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a House Oversight Committee member who chairs the subcommittee with jurisdiction over Trump’s hotel in Washington. “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.”
The investigation began after the committee received information that two entities — a trade association and a foreign government — booked a large number of rooms but used only a fraction of them, according to a person familiar with the allegation who isn’t authorized to speak for the committee.
Rep. Ro Khanna, (D-Calif.), a member of the House Oversight Committee, said if Trump or his staff solicited the hotel reservations, they could have broken the law. But even if they didn’t, it’s still a problem.
This Pee Tape Is Fake, But a Very Good Fake
There exists a video online that, considering the subject matter, astoundingly few people have seen. It begins in medias res: In a chair, at the foot of a bed, sits the unmistakable figure of Donald Trump. He is offering what seems to be instructions to two near-nude women on the bed, one of whom is bottomless and standing over the other, who appears to be lying on her side.
The pee tape is fake, reports Slate’s Ashley Feinberg. This pee tape, anyway. Whether this pee tape is the pee tape is one of the things that are still unclear about it. But it is very far from being an obvious fake. There are a number of reasons to believe that this pee tape would be real, and there are also a number of reasons to believe it is not. One reason to believe it is real is that it does exist—an extremely lifelike, extremely grainy video clip depicting Trump in the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, while two nude or near-nude women cavort in front of him—and you can watch it right now.
This was, however, also a very, very powerful reason to keep believing it was fake: that the most extraordinarily damaging piece of evidence against the president could just be waiting there, in plain sight, with no one doing anything about it. If there are any lessons we should have learned by this point, in 2019, they’re that nothing could ever be that easy, and that few enough things are real.
If the Rats Begin to Jump …
Trump’s popularity is un-dentable among GOP voters. Republicans likely won’t individually take on Trump, unless, of course, his approval rating tanks and he becomes a liability to the party. But that’s only likely to happen if his fellow Republicans all turn against him. Who goes first matters, says FiveThirtyEight. because if we’re talking about a monumental sea change, it isn’t moderate Republicans like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine or Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah who will lead the GOP parade.
Rather, it’s rank-and-file Republican senators up for reelection in solidly red states, like Bill Cassidy from Louisiana or Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma, whom you should watch. If they waver, that will signal that Trump’s days are numbered. Of course, the rub is that neither has spoken out against Trump — in fact, they’ve stuck by him — but that’s the point. If Republicans do abandon Trump over impeachment, it will be because of the senators least likely to strike out against Trump balked.
Featured image: Trump’s Doonbeg, Ireland, hotel and resort.