When Mr. Trump stopped by the Trump International Hotel in Washington, he sometimes let managers know he was being briefed on their performance. At Mar-a-Lago, he told longtime members that he ought to raise prices on the new crowd angling to join. Then he did, at least twice.
Eric Trump sometimes told his father about specific groups that had booked events at Mar-a-Lago, a former administration official said. And as Mr. Trump surveyed his business empire from the White House, he occasionally familiarized himself with details from club membership lists, according to two people with knowledge of the activity.
Getting access to Mr. Trump was easy: He has spent time at his hotels and resorts on roughly one day out of every four of his presidency
When the president walked into his Washington hotel for dinner, word seemed to spread almost instantaneously. People might camp out at the hotel bar for hours, hoping for even a brief audience. At Mar-a-Lago, members paid Mr. Trump to spend time at what was, ultimately, his home. During meals, people would line up at his table. Guests, even paying members, had a habit of thanking Mr. Trump for having them over.
“People know and expect him to be at Mar-a-Lago, so they’ll bring a guest or come with a specific idea,” said Fernando Cutz, a former national security aide who often visited the club with Mr. Trump. “With that access, you could pitch your ideas. With this president, he’d actually listen and direct his staff to follow up.”
And chances were good he’d be around. Mr. Trump has visited the Trump family’s hotels and resorts on nearly 400 days of his presidency.
Victories were as weighty as a presidential directive and as ephemeral as a presidential tweet
Patrons at the properties ranged widely: foreign politicians and Florida sugar barons, a Chinese billionaire and a Serbian prince, clean-energy enthusiasts and their adversaries in the petroleum industry, avowed small-government activists and contractors seeking billions from ever-fattening federal budgets.
Mr. Trump’s administration delivered them funding and laws and land. He handed them ambassadorships, appointments, presidential directives and tweets.