Ambassador Salem al-Sabah said his guests wanted a change after more than 10 years of visiting the Four Seasons, and last year he held the gala at the Newseum, a media museum that promotes free expression.
Mr Sabah has reportedly faced claims the event was moved to the Trump International for political reasons, which he called “honestly absurd”. He told NPR: “If people think that for us to rent a ballroom for two hours in a hotel is going to swing open the doors to the White House for us, it’s an absurd line of thinking.”
The 2017 celebration was held on 22 February.
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The hotel is leased in a government-owned site, the Old Post Office, in Pennsylvania Avenue. The General Services Administration (GSA), which leased the building to Mr Trump’s company, said the contract contains a provision that prohibits any elected official from holding the lease.
Norm Eisen, a former Obama administration ethics official, told NPR Mr Trump was in violation of the emoluments clause of the US constitution, which says a president cannot accept benefits from a foreign country.
The president’s legal team said in January that Mr Trump would “voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotels to the United States treasury”.
“I think it’s a simple matter of amending the lease,” said Patrick Keogh, a real estate investor in Austin, Texas, who has developed projects for the GSA and other federal agencies. He said Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and chief negotiator on the hotel, should ask the GSA to exempt her father from that provision of the contract. The GSA should make the process public and transparent, Keogh said.
Others say Trump must relinquish ownership of the hotel. More broadly, they argue, Trump should sell off his company and put the cash into a blind trust as previous presidents have done. He is not legally required to do so, but it has become common for presidents to separate themselves from their personal finances to avoid any possible conflicts with national policy.