All this for a money-losing hotel that the Trump Organization overpaid for in 2012, when it pledged to invest $200 million in renovations. That price was so high, wrote The Washington Post‘s Steve Pearlstein, citing industry experts, that Trump is expected to charge well above all other hotels in Washington. Pearlstein could not have foreseen, of course, that by the time the hotel opened, Trump would be three months away from becoming president. Despite the ocean of cash pouring into the hotel from Trump supporters, foreign dignitaries and the federal government itself, Trump ended up losing an estimated $70 million in operating expenses. Even so, the Trump Organization walked away from the sale to CGI Merchant with around $100 million in profit.
Why would CGI Merchant pay so much? Politics would seem like a good guess, and CGI Merchant President Raoul Thomas has given nearly $100,000 in political donations over the past decade and a half. The problem is that he gave it all to democrats.
A response began to emerge on Saturday when Mother JonesRuss Choma and Hannah Levintova, after reviewing documents filed with DC’s Recorder of Deeds, reported that $285 million of the $375 million purchase price was put in place not by CGI Merchant, but by partners at New York-based MSD bank, which in turn received funding at least in part, and possibly more than in part, from something called Axos Bank, an online-only lender with no physical branches that was founded in 2000 as Bank of Internet USA. Based in San Diego and Las Vegas, Axos Bank “has recently closed several large deals with the Trump and Kushner families,” Choma and Levintova wrote. write in rolling stone in March, Tim Dickinson and Andy Kroll called Axos an “unusual, controversial lender” with “strong financial ties to the GOP.”