ROBERT L. MARONIC: The Trump Organization Needs to Pay Up

On Tuesday October 18 when I was listening to the 9:00 a.m. news on a local AM radio station, the lead story was how President Trump charged the Secret Service as much as $800 per room from 2017 to 2021 to stay at Trump owned hotels and golf resorts. The obvious implication was how the former president “overcharged” or ripped off the American taxpayers.

When I stayed at the Kahler (KAY-ler) Grand Hotel in Rochester, Minnesota, (which is a three-star hotel on floors three to ten) from November 3, 2018 to January 26, 2019, and literally “only twenty-one steps” from the Mayo Clinic, I paid considerably less money per day for a three month’s stay.

The hotel was clean, my Vietnamese-American housekeeper was a real joy, the heat was plentiful, the second shift staff and management, especially Myranda, were very friendly, and the restaurant served the best Cobb Salad that I had ever eaten in my life.

While there I met many people from all over the upper Midwest and the entire world. I especially remember talking with a high school senior from North Dakota, whose father was Lakota Sioux and his mother was German-American. We once talked for over ninety minutes on many interesting topics, and he once showed me two pictures of how closely his father resembled the actor Graham Greene from the 1990 movie “Dances with Wolves.” The resemblance was astounding despite the fact that Greene was Oneida, and his father was Lakota Sioux.

He later gave me the nickname “Runs with Horses” (Sungwankan Ob iyanke) because in high school I liked to jog at a farm in southern Hagerstown, Maryland with a sorrel-mare quarter horse or her older foal holding onto the reins. I would also sometimes run inside a two-hundred by one-hundred-yard split rail fence in a low grassy meadow at the same farm; however, I always kept a respectful fifty-yard distance from the string of seven horses, especially keeping a close eye on the lead stallion along with the six-foot high fence in case of a quick escape.

The horses were rather friendly, but they probably thought that I was nuts; however, I thought it was fun, good exercise and an adrenaline rush.

My only two complaints at the Kahler Grand Hotel were that room 887 and my previous room both had erratic Wi-Fi, and the hot tub on the eleventh floor was rarely over 102 degrees. Despite the hot tub’s less than “warm” temperature and weak antiquated jets, I once remember meeting a young friendly happy Mormon couple from Idaho, whose wife was missing all her cartilage in her left knee and 75% of the cartilage in her other knee. I truly felt sorry for her because she was just thirty-two years old, in obvious pain and the mother of four children. Her orthopedic problems almost made my neurological problems look truly trivial or somewhat caviling.

I also remember meeting a young woman from Hanoi, Vietnam, who was staying at the hotel for ten days for endometriosis and other medical problems. I was surprised at her candid and pleasant conversation. Her English was excellent, and that evening we were the only two people in the hot tub. I quickly sensed that she came from a privileged background. She eventually told me that her father was in the Politburo. I was shocked at her candor. When I once asked her if Americans were still hated in Vietnam, she simply and promptly replied in a non-hateful way, “Yes.” I quickly changed the subject.

The next morning I made absolutely no mention of my meeting her to my housekeeper because her family had escaped Hue in 1991 because the Vietnamese government would not allow her to enroll in any high school because her father had served in the South Vietnamese army from 1968 to 1975. She and her family desperately fled Vietnam that same year as boat people while constantly evading homicidal pirates. She had been working at the hotel since 1992.

During my stay at the Kahler Grand Hotel I had to use a leased ruby-red Shoprider three-wheeled scooter chair because of chronic spasticity in both my lower legs and feet although I could sometimes slowly walk distances of fifty yards or less, but not up and down steps. However, anytime I went to use the hot tub or swimming pool for spasm relief on the eleventh floor, a bellman always had to accompany me, who had a special key fob that would take me in a elevator to that floor.

The eleventh floor or the Towers, which was the hotel’s top exclusive floor, was where the rooms ranged in price according to the concierge from $400 to $3,600 per day. Many of the rooms there easily resembled a six-star hotel or higher. Since I always went to the far south wing of this floor to use the hot tub and pool every evening usually at 8:00 (except when it was broken for a few weeks in December), I got to see quite a few unoccupied rooms such as the Mississippi Valley Suite on the way to the spa area due to the $30 million hotel remodeling underway. All the other hotel guests from floors three to ten could only enter this area through a separate stairwell on the tenth floor.

The eleventh floor was where such famous people as President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and other celebrities had stayed the previous spring according to some of the bellmen and a Lord Essex chef. Other guests from time to time often included multi-billionaires, multi-millionaires, prime ministers, emirs, sheikhs, princes, queens, ambassadors and other titans of industry. In plain words, the eleventh floor catered to the top 1% of all Americans and other international guests, who could afford the luxurious room rates.

When the pro-Trump New York Post criticized the Trump Organization on October 24 for charging “exorbitant rates” for the lodgings of President Trump’s Secret Service agents from January 2017 to September 2021, it strongly appeared that the Trump Organization may indeed have a serious federal law violation. If true, they need to write a sizable check to the U.S. Treasury for overcharging “hundreds or thousands of dollars above the government rate for stays at its hotels.”

According to House Oversight Committee Chair Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the Trump Organization charged the taxpayers “by lodging [Secret Service] agents in his eponymous hotels at rates ‘as high as $1,185 per night,’ ….” Maloney said, “records show the Secret Service spent more than $1.4 million on lodging at Trump-owned properties in the United States from January 20, 2017, through September 15, 2021, ….” I highly suspect that all of Trump’s “properties” such as Mar-a-Lago are either five-star or six-star hotels, which would make “$1,185 per night” look like chump change.

I suppose Trump could have lodged the agents at a nearby Motel 6, but that would not have provided much presidential security. That would have made as much sense as when President Abraham Lincoln foolishly decided to attend Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865 with only one boozer bodyguard, John Frederick Parker, who preferred the adjacent Star Saloon on 10th Street in order to get drunk instead of protecting the president while he watched the comedic Our American Cousin. However, Parker’s inexcusable derelict decision allowed John Wilkes Booth to easily enter Lincoln’s unprotected presidential box, and assassinate him.

I suspect that may be correct in stating that the Trump Organization exceeded the “Secret Service more than the government per diem rate,” and may be guilty of “profiteering.” If legally legitimate, ledger books or spreadsheets listing credits and debits rarely lie. If so, the greedy Trump Organization headed by Eric Trump may indeed owe the U.S. Treasury hundreds of thousands of dollars or more plus substantial fines, and therefore needs to pay Uncle Sam.

However, what is extremely interesting about this entire hotel “scandal” has been the unusually shared bipartisan outrage  besides the pro-Trump New York Post, which also includes NPR, NBC, Politico, People and The New York Times. However, when compared to how our three former presidents and current president, Mr. Portrait-Painting Bush, Mr. Martha’s-Vineyard Obama, Mr. Roy Cohn-Wannabe Trump and profoundly cognitively impaired Biden (along with Congress) have all increased the U.S. national debt from approximately $5 trillion in 2001 to over $31.2 trillion today is truly astounding, disgraceful and unsustainable.

Where is the outrage that will burden the next two generations of Americans? The answer is presently nowhere to be seen.

Despite the Trump Organization being strongly accused of criminal wrongdoing, the U.S. national debt caused by these four fiscal fools and Congress owed by future generations of Americans is truly both alarming and potentially calamitous. All Americans must remember that even after the Stock Market Crash of October 29, 1929, the United States was still in a serious economic Depression twelve years later on December 7, 1941. That was the “day of infamy” when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which ultimately led to the death of 40,000,000 to 50,000,000 people in World War II.

As Mark Twain once famously said, “History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme.”

In my view, the 2020s are starting to “rhyme” a lot with the 1920s.

– Robert L. Maronic

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