WASHINGTON ― The announcement that next year’s Group of Seven summit for leaders of major industrial nations will be held at President Donald Trump’s golf resort in Miami was met with apathy from many members of his party on Capitol Hill on Thursday, even as Democrats and ethics watchdogs cried foul that holding the event at a business the president personally profits from would put him in direct violation of the Constitution.
“Show me where there is a violation of law. I’m not sure that there is, not that I’m aware of,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) told reporters on Thursday.
The emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits federal government officials from accepting gifts from foreign states. Democrats have argued in court that the president is violating the emoluments clause by accepting payments from foreign and domestic parties through his businesses, like the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
“It’s so brazen and craven that it’s virtually saying, ‘To heck with the rule of law,’” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). The senator said he planned to add the matter to his lawsuit against Trump focusing on his business deals and the emoluments clause.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters during a press briefing on Thursday that the Trump National Doral is the “best place” to host the summit, dismissing concerns that the president would personally profit by doing so.
“This was by far and away the best choice,” Mulvaney claimed, noting the administration considered other options for the event.
But Blumenthal argued that the issue of whether Trump profits from the move or does not is irrelevant given that the emoluments clause does not specifically mention “profit,” and because of the president’s refusal to release his tax returns.
“The question is not profit. It’s money and payments. And we’ll never know whether there is profit because it’s not a public corporation and he’s not releasing his tax returns,” he added.
Few Republicans spoke out against the White House decision to host the G-7 at Trump Doral on Thursday. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said “no” when asked if she found it appropriate. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said the president’s resort was “probably not the best location” for the summit.
Other Republicans downplayed the decision, however, putting faith in Trump even as the House moved forward with its impeachment inquiry.
“It may seem careless politically, but on the other hand there’s tremendous integrity in his boldness and his transparency,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said of Trump, complaining that Democrats “make big deals out of nothing all the time.”
“I would have a problem if they were paying double the going rate, if it was a one-star resort getting four-star rates or five-star rates,” Cramer added of the summit, which is typically financed with taxpayer dollars.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), meanwhile, said he would be hard-pressed to oppose an event that would bring a substantial financial boon to residents of his home state of Florida, even as he allowed some might quibble with its legality.
“Anything that draws a major event like that to Florida is not something I would discourage,” Rubio said of the G-7’s planned location in Miami.
Asked whether Trump’s profiting from the G-7 would blunt the president’s attacks against former Vice President Joe Biden, who he has accused of enriching his family while in office, Rubio shrugged.
“I don’t think it changes anything. I just think it’s another day in the life of Washington, D.C., these days,” he said.