Cell CEO challenged by lawmakers over Trump lodge stays

Alfred Osborne
March 15, 2019

At another hearing analyzing the merger last month, House lawmakers didn't ask questions related to the hotel stays or deleted tweets. T-Mobile CEO John Legere testifies during a hearing before the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee February 13, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. 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.

The issue of the hotel stays flared up nearly immediately as Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., opened the questioning by challenging Legere on the decision to stay at Trump's hotel.

"Do you understand the optics of that, what it looks like?"

Meanwhile, the proposed T-Mobile-Sprint merger recently gained some opposition in the form of more than 30 House Democrats who urged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and DOJ Antitrust Division head Makan Delrahim to reject the deal. "If I may add, I made the decision", Legere said.

The two men talked over one another briefly, before Johnson interjected: "It doesn't pass the smell test with the American public".

"You see how that looks?"

But Representative Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia, asked instead about Legere taking a group of executives to stay at the Trump International Hotel the day after the merger was announced past year.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat, agreed with Johnson's concerns. "It appears that you were trying to influence the merger", she told Legere.

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Legere insisted that the choice to stay at the hotel was his alone and that it reflects his consistent practices in previous years.

Legere said on Twitter on Sunday that on this trip to Washington he stayed at a different hotel. It is unclear whether Legere committed never to stay at another Trump hotel - though he did not appear to dispute Jayapal's characterization Tuesday afternoon - but in 2015 he did vow to leave one over a noise complaint.

"I have said I would never stay in a La Quinta again, and I have stayed at a La Quinta subsequently", joked Florida Republican Matt Gaetz.

Not every moment of the hearing was devoted to Legere's hotel stays.

T-Mobile and Sprint have been facing pressure from Democrats who raised concerns that the merger will escalate prices and consumers will suffer.

To win support for the deal, T-Mobile previously said it would not increase prices for three years. T-Mobile has updated that it will continue to maintain the Lifeline program throughout the country indefinitely.

The research firm says that, like T-Mobile's recent statement about keeping 5G contract pricing the same as 4G LTE pricing, it doesn't think the "in-home" move will damage the operators' efforts to obtain merger approval, but does indicate they are "still providing new chapters in their book" when they should be providing "summary arguments" for the deal.

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