WASHINGTON (AN) — U.S. President Donald Trump plans to host next year's gathering of the Group of Seven rich democracies at his private golf resort in Florida, White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney announced on Thursday.
Mulvaney told reporters that Trump has decided the G-7 summit on June 10-12, 2020 will be held at Trump National Doral Miami, focused on the global economy and incentives for growth, rolling back "prosperity-killing regulations," ending trade barriers and reopening energy markets.
The move by Trump, who has rankled other G-7 summit leaders with his "America First" policies and politics, represented an unprecedented and brazen use of public office to direct a lucrative private contract to himself.
Mulvaney said Trump was not worried about the self-dealing aspects or legal consequences of exploiting the presidency to award himself a huge government contract likely worth tens of millions of dollars, most of it coming from foreign governments despite the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clauses that say presidents cannot accept payments from foreign governments or from the U.S. government beyond presidential salary.
Trump Organization records show the Doral resort has fallen into sharp decline in recent years, the Washington Post reported, and the summit will draw business to the resort during one of its slowest months of the year. It was Trump's idea to host the G-7 summit at his own property, Mulvaney added: "We had the list, and he goes, 'What about Doral?' And it was like, 'That’s not the craziest idea. It makes perfect sense.' "
Mulvaney said the Trump administration visited 10 unspecified sites in California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah before selecting Trump's Miami golf resort, conveniently close to the airport.
"And it became apparent at the end of that process that Doral was, by far and away — far and away — the best physical facility for this meeting," he said, according to a White House transcript of the press briefing. "It’s not the only place; it’s the best place."
Mulvaney said the Trump Organization would host the summit "at cost," charging taxpayers only enough to cover the resort’s costs, but he did not specify exactly what that might entail. The bulk of the costs of hosting such a summit are typically paid by the U.S. government, though foreign governments pay for their own rooms. "So they’re doing this at cost," he said. "As a result, it’s actually going to be dramatically cheaper for us to do it at Doral compared to other final sites that we had."
He downplayed the major economic benefits that Trump's property would accrue from putting the resort on a world stage and gaining international media exposure. The Trump Organization was “honored” and "excited" to have been chosen by Trump, its owner, to host the G-7 in Miami, according to a company statement.
The summit revolves each year among the G-7's eight members: Britain, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
The last U.S.-hosted summit was held in 2012 at the U.S. government's Camp David in western Maryland, during then-President Barack Obama's administration. In 2004, then-President George W. Bush held it at Sea Island, a private resort in Georgia now owned by American billionaire Phillip Anschutz and his family.
This past August, the French-hosted summit at Biarritz, France made little progress in resolving tensions over Trump’s trade policies, a troubled world economy, the climate crisis and fraying Iranian nuclear deal.
Even before it ended, French President Emmanuel Macron decided there would be no traditional, final communiqué due to Trump’s intransigence on global warming, tariffs and a host of other policies. Instead, France issued a short statement at the end of the summit on trade, Iran, Ukraine, Libya and Hong Kong.
But the summit — overshadowed by fears of an escalating trade war between the United States and China that could send a slowing global economy into recession — ended with modest progress over Amazon’s rainforest fires, a potential Iran meeting and digital taxes.
While at the summit in France, Trump noted his company has "a series of magnificent buildings — we call them bungalows," when asked about the possibility of using his Miami golf resort for the next G-7 summit.
"They each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms with magnificent views," he said. "We have incredible conference rooms, incredible restaurants. It's like — it's like such a natural — we wouldn't even have to do the work that they did here."
At last year’s G-7 summit in Canada, Trump torpedoed the meeting’s end results. He described the host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as a “dishonest and weak” leader who made “false statements.”
As he departed from Canada aboard Air Force One, Trump disavowed the final communiqué negotiated over two days, reflecting bitter differences on trade disputes, climate change, NATO, Iran, Russia and North Korea.
More fuel for investigation
With Democrats in the U.S. Congress mounting an impeachment inquiry against Trump, the selection of a private golf resort owned by the Trump Organization added fuel to rising criticism of a Republican president who has consistently used his public office to enrich his private business.
Mulvaney's news conference was meant to justify Trump’s decision on the G-7 summit, but it ended with even more startling news — the admission that Trump withheld aid meant for Ukraine to pressure its government to investigate U.S. Democrats. His comments contradicted Trump’s denials of a quid pro quo between the aid and political investigations in the Ukraine scheme that are at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.
Advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — which took Trump to court claiming he violated the U.S. Constitution's emoluments clauses — expressed outrage over the G-7 announcement.
“This is unbelievable. Given the potential consequences the president is facing for abusing the presidency for his own gain, we would have thought he would steer clear of blatant corruption at least temporarily; instead he has doubled down on it," CREW's executive director, Noah Bookbinder, said in a statement.
"The president is now officially using the power of his office to help prop up his struggling golf business. There appears to be no bottom to President Trump’s corruption," he said. "What matters most to him is his personal profit and personal advancement, not the best interests of the American people. There is now no question that the American government is being used as a public relations and marketing subsidiary of the Trump Organization."
Trump's prized 643-room Doral golf property in Miami, traditionally one of the Trump Organization's biggest revenue draws, recently suffered a "steep decline" in profitability, according to the Washington Post. Trump paid a reported $150 million for the resort in 2012 and borrowed $125 million from Deutsche Bank to carry out $250 million in planned renovations.Trump listed the property in federal disclosures as the hotel that earned him the most money, but in recent years its net operating income declined by more than two-thirds. The G-7 summit would bring media exposure and revenue to the property from the U.S. and foreign governments, security details and journalists.
"This is corruption in plain sight," said Rep. Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, who chairs the House Rules Committee. "They're not even trying to hide it anymore. Trump has turned the presidency into a money-making operation for his family and himself. He is lining his own pockets at the expense of American taxpayers, and Republicans are letting him do it."
McGovern noted that the House of Representatives has voted "multiple times to block any use of federal funds at Trump properties, including funds needed to stand up a G-7 summit at Trump Doral." The Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee already had begun to investigate Trump's plan to hold the G-7 summit at his own resort, based on reports last June in the Washington Post that it was a possibility.
"The President’s personal financial interests are clearly shaping decisions about official U.S. government activities, and this is precisely the type of risk that the Constitution’s emoluments clauses were intended to prevent," House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, and a subcommittee chairman, Rep. Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee, said in a statement in August.