WASHINGTON — Large blue letters projected over the entrance to the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Monday (May 15) night read “Pay Trump Bribes Here,” an allusion to questions about President Donald Trump’s business affairs with foreign governments.
Two other images were projected in rotation: “Emoluments welcome” at the top as images of the flags of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey appeared, and the Emoluments Clause in its entirety.
The clause is an obscure provision of the Constitution that critics of Mr Trump say he should be held to if he benefits from transactions with companies controlled by foreign governments.
“Emolument” means compensation for labor or services. The clause says that “no person holding any office of profit or trust” shall “accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state” unless Congress consents.
An artist, Robin Bell of Bell Visuals, said he was responsible for the projections. He described himself as a video journalist and multimedia artist who works on political and public interest projects.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Mr Bell said the images were projected on the building for about 10 minutes, via a van that he parked across the street. He said he wanted to make emoluments a part of the national conversation, but it’s not the easiest topic to understand.
You often see “a glazed-over look on people’s faces” when you bring it up, he said.
“If you’re trying to tell a story, you sort of need a visual to help make it work sometimes,” he said. “We’re just trying to find a way to tell the story about the emoluments and what’s going on.”
A spokeswoman for the hotel did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a legal watchdog group, filed a federal lawsuit in January and amended it in April, accusing Trump of violating the Constitution by continuing to own and profit from his far-flung business empire.
The amended complaint claimed that he had harmed an organisation that represents more than 200 restaurants and nearly 25,000 employees. Its clients compete directly with restaurants that Trump owns or in which he has a financial interest.
Mr Trump and his administration have been past targets of Bell.
An undated photo on his website shows another projection — “Experts agree: Trump is a pig” — at the hotel’s entrance and “#PollutingPruitt” at the entrance to the Environmental Protection Agency a few blocks away, referring to the agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt.
Mr Bell said he has done such projections for about seven years and has never been arrested because of them. Five people were involved Monday, and they packed up after hotel security stood in front of the projector and asked them to leave, he said.
He said he believed the projections are legal, but they typically leave when ordered.
“Getting into a fight with Trump Hotel security is not a fight we want to have,” he said. NEW YORK TIMES