Connolly: Trump's hotel a conflict of interest
01:09 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

As President Donald Trump holds his first re-election fundraiser Wednesday night at the hotel he owns in Washington, one Democratic congressman is slamming the President over the move, arguing it is “just plain wrong.”

An invitation to the event, held at the Trump International Hotel, showed that tickets started at $35,000 per person, with a $100,000 price tag to sit on the host committee. Hours after telling reporters they would be allowed to cover the event, the White House changed course and closed the event to the press.

During an interview on CNN’s “Erin Burnett Outfront,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, who sits on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, warned that the fundraiser created “a terrible perception problem.”

“I think it really taints the process,” the Virginia Democrat said. “I think it’s most unwise and I think frankly it’s just plain wrong for the American President to be engaged like that.”

Connolly also said the event is the latest example of conflict-of-interest concerns surrounding the hotel, which was opened in the Old Post Office and leased from the federal General Services Administration in 2013.

“From the beginning, I have insisted that his whole relationship with the Trump hotel becomes a massive conflict of interest the day he was sworn in,” he said. “The lease agreement with the federal government is crystal clear that an elected official cannot be participating in that lease or benefiting from it. Then there’s the constitutional provision that prevents … precludes foreign emoluments, a big word, meaning foreign payola, and the fact of the matter is this violates all of that.”

The fundraiser is taking place more than two years sooner than George W. Bush or Barack Obama held the first fundraising events for their re-election efforts. But deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the timing was not an issue.

“He’s raising money for the party,” she told reporters at the White House news briefing. “I don’t think that’s abnormal for any president.”