Politics 'Where is everyone?': Inside Trump's DC hotel post-presidency
Fact checking Trump's CPAC speech
Former President Donald Trump returned to the public stage on Sunday with a familiar kind of Trump speech -- a speech filled with debunked lies. © Joe Raedle/Getty Images ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 28: Former President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference held in the Hyatt Regency on February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC brings together conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders to discuss issues important to them.
A sprawling lobby and bar with only a handful of people. Confused guests asking where everybody went. Elegant, but empty hallways. These are the scenes CNN observed inside the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, this month as the once-humming destination confronts a new reality.
The hotel had opened to much fanfare just months before former President Donald Trump took office, and quickly became a draw for Trump loyalists and insiders throughout his tenure.
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"I mean, we were very busy," Shawn Matijevich, the former executive chef at the hotel's steak restaurant, explained to CNN. "With so many every day, you know it almost got overwhelming at times -- how many VIP's and members of our government that you know are making headlines are all together in the same place."
But the ongoing-- which has impacted the entire hotel industry -- paired with Trump's exit from office, now appear to be taking a significant toll on the place Trump once "one of the great hotels of the world."
One hotel staffer told CNN this month, "Since the coronavirus we weren't doing so bad until I'd say probably a month ago. It really, like, slowed down."
"It's normal during this time of year to have this kind of slow down, but because of everything going on, it kind of really had -- a different time."
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Indoor restaurants and bars in Washington are limited to 25% capacity or 250 people total, whichever is smaller. The nation's capital had paused all indoor dining in December as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations surged.
On a recent Friday night, CNN observed around 30 customers in the hotel's bar and lounge area over a three-hour span. But the main elevators were only used a handful of times, signaling that not many were staying overnight.
The halls of the hotel appeared mostly lifeless around 7:00 p.m. ET.
The following morning, hotel staff and Trump'swere some of the only people populating the vast lobby. No one had breakfast in the lounge for a span more than an hour before two men came in.
"Where is everyone?" one of the men asked. The waiter slightly threw up his hands, as if to express uncertainty.
Asked about the hotel's current occupancy and revenue numbers, Eric Trump, who runs day-to-day operations of the family real estate empire, praised the hotel in a statement without providing any specific figures.
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He was a one-term “loser.” He helped lose his party the White House, the Senate, and the House. He left office with a domestic body count in the hundreds of thousands, and an economy in the toilet. Just last month, he instigated a deadly riot on Capitol Hill that endangered the lives of senior members of his own party, as he sat back and smirked from the comfort and safety of the West Wing. And his administration ended in such a historically disastrous state of his own making that fellow leaders in the Republican Party were directly blaming him for the deaths and anti-democratic mob violence, and some of his former senior advisers were openly accusing him of attempting to stage a c
"Our location is unrivaled and we are incredibly proud to have the best hotel in our nation's capital," he said.
During a separate CNN visit to the hotel, just a handful of people were present in the lobby over multiple hours.
But even before Trump left office and his role in the US Capitol insurrection brought further complications to his businesses, the pandemic was puttingon Trump Organization properties worldwide.
Hotels and other hospitality companies, which form a substantial part of Trump's business empire, have been hit especially hard during the outbreak as travelers stay home and governments impose lockdowns.
Trump's final financial disclosure as President showed sales at the Washington hotel plummeted by 63% last year compared with 2019, when the Trump Organization was. And those figures are not unique to Trump's hotel. Data from the hospitality analytics company STR shows that business for luxury hotels in Washington has spiraled across the board.
Jan Freitag, senior vice president of Lodging Insights at STR, told CNN that in 2019, occupancy at high-end hotels in downtown DC was 73%.
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Former President Donald Trump's second acquittal by the US Senate proved the enduring power he holds over the Republican Party, with the results Saturday setting the dangerous precedent that even an autocratic leader who violates his oath of office can escape punishment if he bullies enough senators into standing by him. © Alex Wong/Getty Images U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Hispanic pastors at the Roosevelt Room of the White House January 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. His win came after a feeble defense by his lawyers that amounted to little more than gaslighting and a presentation of falsehoods.
"So basically, one-in-four rooms was empty," Freitag said. "Today, four-in-five rooms are empty."
But the former President's loyal following could still provide some meaningful avenues for revenue moving forward. Room rates reviewed by CNN indicate the hotel could be looking to capitalize on a stream of business from supporters who follow the unhinged QAnon conspiracy theory and.
While a standard room can be usually booked for around $500, according to a review of the hotel's website, a room on March 4 costs around $1,300. The Trump Organization did not respond to multiple inquiries about whether the price surge was related to QAnon's March 4 conspiracy.
Still, the price hike underscores the draw that the former President can still command, even if he's no longer down the road at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
"God bless Donald Trump. I mean, what else can you do?" one woman recently told CNN unprompted in the hotel's lobby. "We come here and we support him."
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Maher predicts that the former president will announce a bid to run in the 2024 election during his Sunday appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)."[Trump] is going to say Sunday that he's the presumptive nominee for 2024. No one is going to oppose him – there are nine panels at the CPAC convention all about how the election was stolen, and none about why it was lost. That's where they are," Maher said Friday.