WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has funneled hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to his own resorts since taking office, and now appears poised to direct other countries’ taxpayers’ yen, euros and pounds into his own pocket, too.
With the United States taking its turn to host the G-7 meeting of the largest democratic economies next year, Trump on Monday made it clear he wants the site to be his own golf resort in Doral, Florida.
“With Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings, we call them bungalows, they each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms with magnificent room views,” he said at a news conference at the close of this year’s G-7 in Biarritz, France, before adding the lie: “I’m not going to make any money.”
“That’s just a nonsense statement,” said Walter Shaub with the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Shaub had run the Office of Government Ethics at the start of Trump’s administration but resigned when Trump refused to follow his guidance on adhering to ethics laws. “He’s the owner of the thing ... It at least creates the appearance of corruption.”
The White House did not respond to HuffPost queries about the appearance of open corruption, with the president prepared to personally enrich himself from a government decision to host a major conference at his for-profit business.
“Once again, Donald Trump has demonstrated that he doesn’t understand the job of being president, or that the United States is not just his latest business acquisition,” said Bill Weld, the former federal prosecutor and Massachusetts governor running against Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination. “Using a serious meeting of world leaders to promote his golf resort is just the latest in many failures to distinguish between Trump World and the real world.”
No official announcement for the site has yet been made. Should it wind up going to Doral, Shaub said it will give the impression to the rest of the world that the United States is no different from other countries where leaders can siphon off public money toward their own benefit.
“You would think that the president of the United States would want to avoid the appearance that we have a corrupt system,” he said, calling on the State Department’s inspector general to investigate how Doral even got this far as a possible location.
“There are so many places in this country that could host this event. That Trump’s hotel is even in the mix is ridiculous,” Shaub said.
Tax Money Into Trump’s Pocket
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 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.
Should Trump successfully land the 2020 G-7 meeting in Doral, the multiday conference bringing hundreds of both U.S. government as well as foreign officials there would put many millions of dollars into his own cash registers.
At Monday’s news conference, Trump claimed — almost certainly falsely — that accepting the presidency has lost him money. “Probably it’ll cost me from $3 to $5 billion to be president,” he said.
In reality, Trump’s actual net worth and income are not knowable to the public because he reneged on his campaign promise to release his tax returns. In doing so, he became the first major-party nominee since Watergate to fail to disclose that detailed financial information.
While Trump put out a press release during the campaign claiming he was worth “in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS,” it is unclear whether he is worth even $1 billion.
In the 2005 book “TrumpNation,” business journalist Timothy L. O’Brien wrote that Trump was most likely worth no more than $250 million, not the many billions of dollars he was claiming at the time. Trump sued him for defamation, but lost ― and in the process lied dozens of times about his business dealings in a deposition taken by O’Brien’s lawyers.
In 2015, National Journal found that Trump had made so many poor business decisions over the years that had he simply taken the fortune his father placed him in charge of in 1974 and put it into a broad index fund, he would have been far wealthier than he wound up.
Mildew In Trump World
Trump on Monday also described his Doral property in glowing terms as the best suited for the G-7 meeting among the dozen that are under consideration.
“The ballrooms are among the biggest in Florida, and the best. It’s brand new,” he said at the news conference.
“It’s a great place. It’s got tremendous acreage. Many hundreds of acres,” he told reporters during an earlier meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “And it’s Miami. Doral. Miami. So it’s a great area.”
While the city of Doral is in Miami-Dade County, it is removed from the attractions most people have in mind when they think of Miami. The golf resort boasts plenty of ornate chandeliers and baroque fountains — but lies directly beneath the flight path of Miami International Airport’s takeoffs and landings, and is miles from the closest beach.
During the Republican National Committee’s meeting there last spring, the troubled property appeared to be skimping on maintenance costs. At least one of the guest buildings smelled of mildew, as did its guest rooms. The restaurant on the lower floor in the main lodge had a mustiness tinged with the fraternity house odor of spilled alcohol. Its lap pool’s water was both over-chlorinated and kept at too low a level, making it unpleasant to use for its intended purpose.
Shaub said he was not aware of the deteriorating conditions at Doral, and had assumed that the place was as luxurious and top-rate as Trump continually claims. “We want foreign leaders to see that?” he said. “That makes it even more ridiculous.”