President Donald Trump late Saturday backed down from his decision to use his own for-profit golf course near the Miami airport for next year’s G-7 meeting, a move that would have put tens of millions of taxpayer dollars into his own cash registers.
Trump announced his decision not to use his financially troubled Trump National Doral resort in a string of tweets, blaming the news media and Democrats.
“As usual, the Hostile Media & their Democrat Partners went CRAZY!” Trump wrote.
Trump said the meeting would be held somewhere else, possibly Camp David.
“Therefore, based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020,” Trump wrote at 9:52 p.m. “We will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately. Thank you!”
Holding the event at his own property would have violated at least one and possibly both of the Constitution’s emolument clauses. One prohibits the president from receiving money from foreign entities, and the other prohibits him from getting money from the federal government or any state beyond his salary. Federal law also prohibits federal “officers” and employees from giving themselves federal contracts.
On its face, Trump’s insistence on giving himself a massive government contract was literally a dictionary definition of corruption – using one’s office to enrich oneself.
“He is the most corrupt president in modern times,” said Jennifer Horn, a former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party.
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Thursday announced the Doral decision, claiming that of all the possible locations all over the country, Trump’s property was the best suited for the international conference.
The decision drew immediate fire from ethics groups, Democrats, a fair number of Republicans and even some European leaders who would be attending. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said it was “not at all” appropriate for public money to be going into Trump’s pocket.
Trump’s Saturday night tweets announcing the decision also belie his January 2017 promise that he would separate himself from his family business, the Trump Organization, which operates the resorts and hotels that he continues to own through a trust he created after winning the 2016 election.
Trump’s staff has continued to repeat that false claim, and in fact used it to argue that Trump really could not benefit from holding the G-7 at Doral.
“The president has no involvement in the Trump Organization anymore,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told HuffPost on Friday.
Trump, however, wrote on Twitter: “I announced that I would be willing to do it at NO PROFIT or, if legally permissible, at ZERO COST to the USA,” suggesting he personally still fully controls his business.
Doral, although located in Miami-Dade County, is far from what most visitors imagine when they think of Miami. The beaches are miles away through terrible traffic, and the close-by runways of Miami International Airport mean large, noisy jets take off or land overhead from dawn until past midnight.
During the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting there in 2018, the resort itself appeared in need of basic maintenance. Guest rooms smelled of mildew and the basement restaurant had the odor of stale, spilled beer.
The G-7 meeting of the world’s largest democratic economies rotates among its members. Next year’s meeting will be hosted by the United States, and Mulvaney announced on Thursday that of all the possible places in the country that could have hosted it, Trump’s Doral golf course was the best choice.
Trump himself gave a long advertisement for the resort during an August news conference at the conclusion of this year’s G-7 in France. “With Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings. We call them bungalows,” Trump said. “They each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms with magnificent views. We have incredible conference rooms, incredible restaurants.”
In his most recent financial disclosure form filed this May, Trump claimed receiving $81,417,193 in “income” from the Doral resort over the previous year. It’s unclear how accurate that is, given Trump’s tendency to file widely varying figures to different government authorities.
He told the U.S. Office of Government Ethics in his 2018 financial disclosure, for example, that his Scotland golf courses are worth more than $50 million each, even as he told United Kingdom authorities that they had a combined net debt of $65 million.
In any case, money spent at Trump hotels and golf courses flows directly to Trump personally, as he is the sole beneficiary of a trust that now owns his family business. Because Trump insists on playing golf at his own properties, American taxpayers have already been the source for at least many hundreds of thousands of dollars that have gone to the Trump Organization in the form of room, meal and other expenses for Secret Service agents and other government employees who have stayed on-site with Trump in Florida, New Jersey, Scotland and Ireland.