WASHINGTON — Lobbyists representing the Saudi government reserved blocks of rooms at President Trump’s D.C. hotel within a month of his election in 2016 — paying for an estimated 500 nights at the luxury hotel in just three months, according to organizers of the trips and documents obtained by The Washington Post.
The lobbyists were reserving large numbers of D.C.-area hotel rooms as part of an unorthodox campaign that offered US military veterans a free trip to Washington, then sent them to Capitol Hill to lobby against a law the Saudis opposed, according to veterans and organizers.
At first, Saudi lobbyists put the veterans up in Northern Virginia. In December 2016 they switched most of their business to the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. In all, the lobbyists spent more $270,000 to house six groups of visiting veterans at thehotel, which Trump still owns.
Those bookings have fueled a pair of lawsuits saying Trump violated the Constitution by taking improper payments from foreign governments.
During this period, records show, the average nightly rate at the hotel was $768. The lobbyists say they chose Trump’s hotel because it offered a discount from that rate and had rooms available, not to curry favor with Trump.
‘‘Absolutely not. It had nothing to do with that,’’ said Michael Gibson, a Maryland political operative who helped organize the trips.
Some of the veterans who stayed at Trump’s hotel say they were kept in the dark about the Saudis’ role. Now they wonder whether they were used twice: not just to deliver someone else’s message to Congress but also to deliver business to the Trump Organization.