'Pay Trump Bribes Here': Emoluments Clause Appears on DC Trump Hotel

Posted May 17, 2017

Artists in Washington D.C. briefly blasted the Trump International Hotel with a projection instructing guests to drop off their foreign cash inside.

Leading Democrats have joined ethics experts in questioning why the General Services Administration, which oversees the lease, did not move to terminate the agreement once Trump was elected, because the deal includes a clause barring any "elected official of the government of the United States" from deriving "any benefit" from the project. But [the visuals] just worked really well. This obviously presents a conflict, as foreign governments can book rooms at the Trump International Hotel. The government watchdog group filed a lawsuit in federal court immediately after Trump took office, which is still making its way through the system (another lawsuit, from D.C.'s Cork Wine Bar, claims unfair competition specifically from the Trump hotel).

Trump signed the lease in 2014, redeveloping the signature Pennsylvania Avenue property into a luxury hotel.

Bell told CNN it was the fifth time he's projected a message on the Trump International Hotel, and he has no plans of stopping.

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The projections range from a somber display of the actual text of the Emoluments Clause to the more cheeky "Pay Trump Bribes Here" with an arrow, an "Emoluments Welcome" message paired with an "Open 24 Hour" sign, or a compilation of flags from Turkey, China, Saudi Arabia, and Russian Federation.

"We're following in this legacy of badass activism", he told DCist at the time. And he's part of a growing group of artists and activists using light projection as a form of protest, from the Illuminator, which grew out of Occupy Wall Street, to immigrants rights group Movimiento Cosecha, which lit up the Midtown Manhattan Trump Tower last September with images of migrant workers. A few people are supposing it's from the EPA building, which would be damn interesting.

Hotel staff quickly asked Bell to take the projection down, CNN reported. "It's great that it's being talked about and that people are enjoying the moment, talking about these issues".

He says the projector ran for about 10 minutes before a security guard asked him to stop. But he's been been thinking about how exactly to bring the emoluments message to the hotel for about a month.