In recent weeks, Trump pulled U.S. soldiers out of northern Syria, paving the way for an invasion by Turkey that targeted Kurdish forces. The fighting has prompted a flood of Kurdish refugees out of Syria — and caused a political headache for the president, who has been accused by Republicans and Democrats alike of abandoning U.S. allies in the region.
The aid group’s founder, Dalton Thomas, said the reasons behind the cancellation were “hazy.”
“All we know is they canceled,” Thomas, who is in Saudi Arabia, said via text message.
A second official with the religious group, administrator Charlene Struebing, said Trump International Hotel staff expressed “security concerns.” Critics of FAI’s decision to hold its event at the Trump hotel had planned to protest outside, she said.
“They said they’ve gotten a lot of security concerns and they couldn’t accommodate enough security,” Struebing said. “I think it’s more related to people protesting our event than it was anything we were doing.”
The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A D.C. police spokeswoman said the department “has not received any information regarding potential security threats or concerns with this event.”
During Trump’s presidency, his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue has become a favorite hangout for his Republican allies and a venue for conservative events and conferences. Attorney General William P. Barr has booked a holiday party for 200 people at the hotel in December that could generate more than $30,000 in revenue for Trump’s business.
FAI leaders said their goal was not to fund the Trump Organization but rather to use the venue to raise awareness about the Kurdish plight and transcend partisan differences. Still, the backlash to their choice of venue was swift.
“We’ve been bombarded with emails and responses on social media and phone calls of people who are understandably confused by why we would choose to do [the event] at this location, at Trump hotel, which is owned by the president who made this decision that is causing so much bloodshed and turmoil right now for the Kurds,” Thomas said in an online video that was posted Sunday.
Thomas and another leader of the group, Joel Richardson, explained that the intention was to show “honor and respect and humility” for the office of the president while also being “honest about what’s taking place” with the Kurds.
“We’re commanded as followers of Jesus to pray for and honor leaders. And so this is the approach we’ve chosen to do that,” Richardson said in the video. “We are going to, if you will, the president’s living room, and we’re doing our best to have an honoring, respectful, family discussion.”
He added that since “every news story somehow ends up being all about Trump” that it would be good publicity for the issue.
After the cancellation, Thomas said: “It’s their prerogative to cancel.”
“I think it’s a shame they used that prerogative though as this was an opportunity for the Trump administration,” he added. “It seems as though they set out to ‘[snatch] defeat from the jaws of victory’ this month on everything.”
Thomas said that the Trump Organization had refunded the group’s money and that FAI now planned to hold the event at the Grand Hyatt Washington hotel on Sunday.