This company's executives booked 52 nights at Trump hotel as they sought approval for huge merger: report

This company's executives booked 52 nights at Trump hotel as they sought approval for huge merger: report

On Wednesday, the Washington Post revealed that executives at T-Mobile booked 52 nights at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., right around the time that their company announced a gigantic merger with Sprint that would require antitrust approval from President Donald Trump's administration:

Last month, The Washington Post reported that “VIP Arrivals” lists — issued by the Trump hotel daily to its staff — indicated that T-Mobile executives had stayed repeatedly at Trump’s hotel. On the day after the merger was announced, for instance, the lists showed nine T-Mobile executives were expected to check in.

Now, The Post has obtained VIP arrivals lists for additional days last year, which showed five more bookings at the hotel by T-Mobile executives, including chief executive John Legere. Those bookings — in October and December of last year — added 14 nights to the 38 previously reported.

It is unclear exactly how much T-Mobile executives spent at Trump's hotel in total, but one document obtained by the Post showed that Legere's two-night stay at the hotel last month was booked at a rate of $2,246 per night. Legere, for his part, denies that any of this was intended to influence the Trump administration, although Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) have sent letters to T-Mobile demanding to know whether administration officials were notified of these stays.

The proposed $26 billion merger, which would consolidate the nation's third- and fourth-largest telecommunications companies, has been criticized by 14 major organizations for its threat to competition and its potential to trigger up to 30,000 layoffs. Legere has downplayed these risks, insisting that prices will be "the same or better" for three years as a result of the merger. Small carriers and the Rural Wireless Association have warned the Federal Communications Commission this is unlikely, and fear that an enlarged T-Mobile, which currently offers the lowest roaming charges of any of the four big providers, will have no incentive to keep prices down.

The merger has already received approval in December from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the Treasury Department-led agency that clears sales of international businesses for national security. But it still needs approval from antitrust regulators at the Justice Department and the FCC. It is unclear whether they will get it, because the Trump administration has so far been surprisingly aggressive in enforcing antitrust law compared to previous administrations. But the fact that T-Mobile executives have paid out money to the president's family business, even if not an overt bribe, certainly cannot have hurt their case.

The Trump Hotel has been the subject of a great deal of controversy and litigation, particularly in regard to the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution, which bars the president from accepting gifts from foreign states. Several foreign diplomats have booked rooms at the property, raising concerns that this business is intended to influence Trump's policy.


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