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Emolumental Health? Trump’s Coronavirus Relief Package for Hotels Raises Obvious Questions

After a market plunge, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and President Donald Trump held a briefing on Monday. During that briefing, the president discussed an economic relief package to help stem the tide–a package that would also apply to hotels, which the president owns.

It didn’t take long for reports on this to be written and for questions to abound. Could we soon be seeing a U.S. president say “I hereby grant federal relief to myself”? Trump “failed” to divest from his businesses, so the suspicions that he intends to profit off of his office persist. On the other hand, his supporters might point to the donation of $100,000 in salary to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in order to “confront, contain, and combat #Coronvairus.”

To be clear, the discussed relief package is not limited to hotels, but would seem to apply to hospitalities and the travel industry more broadly. In Trump’s own words:

Also, we’re going to be seeing Small Business Administration and creating loans for small businesses. We’re also working with the industries, including the airline industry, the cruise ship industry — which, obviously, will be hit. We’re working with them very, very strongly. We want them to travel. We want people to travel to certain locations and not to other locations at this moment.  And hopefully that will straighten out sooner rather than later.  But we’re working with the industries, and in particular those two industries.

We’re also talking to the hotel industry. And some places, actually, will do well, and some places probably won’t do well at all.  But we’re working also with the hotel industry.

“But the main thing is that we’re taking care of the American public, and we will be taking care of the American public,” he said.

Trump mentioned a “possible payroll tax cut or relief, substantial relief — very substantial relief,” and also said he was interested in helping “hourly wage earners.”

“We’re also going to be talking about hourly wage earners getting help so that they can be in a position where they’re not going to ever miss a paycheck. We’re going to be working with companies and small companies, large companies — a lot of companies — so that they don’t get penalized for something that’s not their fault,” he said. “It’s not their fault, it’s not our country’s fault.”

The Washington Post responded with a report on this, noting that it wasn’t clear if the Trump Organization would benefit:

It’s not clear how U.S. relief would be administered or whether President Trump’s own hotels could be beneficiaries. Administration officials also disagree on the extent to which some of these measures could be undertaken without Congress.

But it was clear that hotels were the only thing on the minds of those asking cui bono out loud. And it was clear that they had emoluments on their minds, though they didn’t use the word.

https://twitter.com/MarkBauer/status/1237187294928437248?s=20

https://twitter.com/JoshSchwerin/status/1237186466414985216?s=20

[Image via CBS News screengrab]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.