Swift backlash as Trump picks own golf resort to host G7

Jerome Cartillier, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 18 2019 12:08 PM

WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump has awarded hosting of the next G7 summit to one of his own Florida golf clubs, the White House said on Thursday, sparking accusations of corruption from opposition lawmakers and ethics campaigners.

The Trump National Doral Golf Club in Miami was "the best place" among a dozen US venues considered for the June 10-12 gathering next year, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters at the White House.

But some members of Congress and civil society groups immediately rebuked Trump for what Democrats called "among the most brazen examples yet of the president's corruption."

"He is exploiting his office and making official US government decisions for his personal financial gain," Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

Nadler vowed that Trump's "latest abuse of power" would not distract from the Democratic-led impeachment investigation into allegations that the president pressured Ukraine into interfering on his behalf in the 2020 US election.

Democrats were already probing Trump's suggestion at the most recent G7 gathering in France in August that the next one could be hosted at one of his resorts.

Critics say the move would violate both the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses that are designed to shield a US leader from outside influence.

'ABUSING THE PRESIDENCY'

"This is unbelievable," Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington pressure group, said in a statement.

"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."

Trump National Doral is vital to Trump's overall finances and was once one of his biggest money-makers -- but it has been in steep decline, according to the Washington Post.

The newspaper reported in May that the resort's net operating income -- the amount left after expenses are paid -- had fallen by 69 percent in two years.

"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," Bookbinder added.

Walter Shaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics and a senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, tweeted that the decision was "so overtly corrupt" that it could not be viewed as anything other than a loyalty test for senators.

"If they are corrupt enough to look the other way, Trump will know he can do anything," he said.

Asked if Trump was aware the choice of venue would inevitably raise accusations of impropriety, Mulvaney said he was -- and had decided to go ahead anyway.

EMPTY IN JUNE

"We're going to have it there, and there's going to be folks who will never get over the fact that it's a Trump property. We get that, but we're still going there," he told reporters.

Mulvaney said Trump suggested Doral as a venue when his team initially gathered to go over a list of 12 possible venues.

He said Doral would put on the event at cost, which he claimed would be as much as half what it would be at other venues. But he gave no estimates of the cost or comparisons.

An important draw is the club's size -- 900 acres, including three golf courses, according to Mulvaney, who said all the foreign delegations and the press could be housed "on campus."

The Post's David Fahrenthold, who has closely followed Trump Organization finances, tweeted that Doral was typically empty in June because of the Miami heat.

"Now -- b/c @realdonaldtrump has awarded the summit to himself -- it will be full," he said.

When he touted Doral at the last G7 in Biarritz, Trump brushed off critics who said he was pushing his brand and profiting from his office.

"It's a great place. It's got tremendous acreage, many hundreds of acres, so we can handle whatever happens," he told reporters.

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