New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
On Monday, June 18, “The Daily Beast”, a media site which describes itself as “an American news and opinion website focused on politics and pop culture”, published an article entitled “Group From Mueller-Scrutinized Cyprus Books Trump’s DC Hotel”. The article presented the organizers of the 34th PSEKA Conference as “a delegation from the country of Cyprus was looking for ways to influence the Trump administration when it came to Washington D.C. in late May. It booked its conference in the president’s hotel.”
Philip Christopher, the President of the International Coordinating Committee “Justice For Cyprus (PSEKA) was indignant when we asked him to comment on the “Daily Beast” article. “The article is completely misleading” Phil Christopher told CNA. “It misrepresents the facts. The truth of the matter is that we were all U.S. citizens and only four guests weren’t. The Mayors of Karavas and Lefkonoiko, the Presidential Commissioner for Cypriots Abroad and a member of the Greek Parliament. They were there to brief and educate the US citizens who were conference participants, not to influence any policy makers,” he added.
Christopher was particularly upset that “The Daily Beast” ignored the fact that the members of PSEKA and the Greek American Organizations that sponsored the 34thConference were simply American citizens exercising their First Amendment to petition their government.
“Justice for Cyprus is far from the only entity advocating on behalf of foreign countries to do business at Trump’s D.C. hotel. The U.S. embassies of Azerbaijan, Bahrain, and Kuwait; Malaysia’s prime minister; Romania’s president; Saudi Arabian lobbyists; and the Turkey–U.S. Business Council have all patronized the Trump Hotel D.C. The Philippines’ embassy celebrated its country’s independence there this Tuesday night”, the article says.
Noah Bookbinder, a former federal corruption prosecutor and executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an organization involved in two lawsuits against President Trump, went far beyond.
“This seems like a prime example of a special interest hoping that they can influence the president, in part, by bringing business to him,” Bookbinder said.
According to “The Daily Beast”, “there’s no evidence that the Mueller investigation had any connection to the Cypriot’s decision to host their conference at the president’s hotel. But their choice of venue still underscores the extent to which a second property on Pennsylvania Avenue—on top of the White House—has become the nexus of influence, power, and legal and political intrigue.”
Christopher objected to the article’s conclusion that PSEKA was trying to buy influence with the Trump Administration, noting that the author did not seem to do his homework on the history of the PSEKA conference. Christopher explained that the Conference has rotated through various notable hotels in Washington DC throughout the years:“Most of the conferences were held at the Madison Hotel and at the Willard Hotel which was very expensive, because they were charging us $499 per room. The Trump Hotel offered us $324 per night, a rate very competitive compared to the other hotels and it’s a very nice hotel”, he pointed out.
“The Daily Beast” acknowledges in its story that the price was very competitive, because Trump hotel’s 2017 average price is $652.98 a night and the average rate of 22 D.C. luxury hotels $338. But, they site as possible reason for both Trump Hotel to offer this rate and for the organizers to choose it, the role of Cyprus to Muller’s Russia probe.
“These predicaments (meaning the investigation in the course of Russia probe of possible use of Cypriot banks) gives champions of Cyprus a possible incentive to want to do business with Trump. They also give the president’s business associates a reason to be charitable when determining what to charge.” No attempt is made in the story to point out that in the month leading up to the PSEKA conference two other conferences “championing” Cyprus were held in Washington, D.C. at other hotels – the Washington Hilton and Capitol Hilton. “According to the logic of this journalist,” noted another PSEKA conference participant, “all the advocacy conferences dealing with Cyprus should have been held at the Trump Hotel.”
The story also reports that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jonathan Cohen and Congresswoman Dina Titus spoke at the conference using a podium with Trump’s Hotel logo. Titus said she didn’t spend any money at the Hotel and the State Department told “The Daily Beast” that no government funds were spent there. Τhe article failed to point out that the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs is a consistent presence at PSEKA conferences.
“The journalist claims he attempted to conduct me numerous times. I never received the call, but I will be very happy to speak to him and explain that the International Coordinating Committee “Justice for Cyprus” is an American organization and a Committee coordinates other American organizations”, Philip Christopher.
He also added that the organizations are drafting a letter to clarify the claims.“Hopefully they will have the decency to publish it”, he concluded.