T-Mobile CEO challenged by lawmakers over Trump hotel stays

At a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing Tuesday, T-Mobile CEO John Legere was questioned by lawmakers over the company’s spending at the Trump hotel in Washington, DC, focusing specifically on hotel stays that occurred after its merger plans with Sprint were announced last spring.

Democratic lawmakers like Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Hank Johnson (D-GA) pressed Legere on whether the company was pining for favorability from the Trump administration in order to receive approval for the merger. Lawmakers were particularly concerned after reports surfaced last week that President Trump allegedly attempted to meddle in the AT&T and Time Warner merger, and were afraid Trump may be involving himself in this new telecommunications merger as well.

“There is reason to look at this question of what happened at the Trump hotels because it has been clear from quite a bit of reporting that … Trump appears to have involved himself in the AT&T-Time Warner merger,” Jayapal said. “We want to make sure that is not happening today.”

In January, The Washington Post reported that T-Mobile executives stayed at the Trump hotel in DC the day after the company announced its $26 billion deal with Sprint. The Post later reported that the nine executives spent 52 nights at the hotel after the announcement and spent a total of $195,000 at the Trump hotel over the past 10 months out of a total of $1.4 million in corporate hotel spending throughout the time period.

If approved, the merger would shrink the country’s national wireless pool from four to three major carriers. Critics have claimed that the merger would reduce competition, lead to higher wireless plan prices for consumers, and result in job loss.

Legere argued that it wasn’t out of character for him or others at the company to stay at the Trump hotel, saying that he has long been a Trump hotel customer. “If I may add, I made the decision,” Legere said. “I’m a longtime Trump hotel stayer, way before this transaction.”

Legere’s response to the accusations didn’t quell the lawmakers’ concerns. Jayapal pointed to a Twitter argument Legere got into with Trump over the quality of a hotel stay in 2015. Legere subsequently deleted his mean tweets directed at Trump where he disparaged the hotel and said he would never want to return, although it’s unclear when exactly they were deleted. However, members appeared concerned that it was another possible attempt to curry favor for the merger.

“It doesn’t pass the smell test for the American public,” Johnson said.

Republicans criticized their Democratic colleagues throughout the hearing for not pressing the witnesses on the effects the merger would have on consumers, but over political misgivings with the Trump administration. When it came to Legere criticizing the Trump hotel years ago, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said “I have said I would never stay in a La Quinta again, and I have stayed at a La Quinta subsequently.”

At another hearing analyzing the merger last month, House lawmakers didn’t ask questions related to the hotel stays or deleted tweets.

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