At a circular booth in the middle of the Trump International Hotel's balcony restaurant, President Donald Trump dined on his steak — well-done, with ketchup — while chatting with British Brexit politician Nigel Farage.
A few days later, major Republican donors Doug Deason and Doug Manchester, in town for the president's address to Congress, sipped coffee at the hotel with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
After Trump's speech, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin returned to his Washington residence — the hotel — and strode past the gigantic American flag in the soaring lobby. With his tiny terrier tucked under an arm, Mnuchin stepped into an elevator with reality TV star and hotel guest Dog the Bounty Hunter, who particularly enjoyed the Trump-stamped chocolates in his room.
It's just another week at the new political capital of the nation's capital.
The $200 million hotel inside the federally owned Old Post Office building has become the place to see, be seen, drink, network — even live — for the still-emerging Trump set. It's a rich environment for lobbyists and anyone hoping to rub elbows with Trump-related politicos — despite a veil of ethics questions that hangs overhead.
"I've never come through this lobby and not seen someone I know," says Deason, a Dallas-based fundraiser for Trump's election campaign.
For Republican Party players, it's the only place to stay.
"I can tell you this hotel will be the most successful hotel in Washington, D.C.," says Manchester, adding that he would know because he has developed the second-largest Marriott and second-largest Hyatt in the world. Manchester says Trump's hotel will attract people based on its location near the White House and Congress, the quality renovation and the management team.
Then there's also the access.
Although Trump says he is not involved in the day-to-day operations of his businesses, he retains a financial interest in them. A stay at the hotel gives someone trying to win over Trump on a policy issue or political decision a potential chit.
That's what concerns ethics lawyers who had wanted Trump to sell off his companies as previous presidents have done.
"President Trump is in effect inviting people and companies and countries to channel money to him through the hotel," said Kathleen Clark, a former ethics lawyer for the District of Columbia and a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
If you want Trump's ear, you stay in Trump's hotels, eat as his restaurants, buy a membership to his clubs, and rub elbows with his people. And they all want their cut.
This is how America does business now.