Monday, 30th October 2017

E- paper

Donald Trump drops plan to host G7 at his club

White House officials decided the Doral was the 'best physical location' in the US for the meeting

By Katie Rogers and Eric Lipton/New York Times News Service in Washington
  • Published 21.10.19, 12:35 AM
  • Updated 21.10.19, 12:35 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
President Donald Trump at the White House on June 7, 2019. (AP)

President Donald Trump said on Saturday that he would no longer hold next year’s Group of 7 meeting at his luxury golf club near Miami, a swift reversal after two days of intense criticism over awarding his family company a major diplomatic event.

“I thought I was doing something very good for our country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 leaders,” Trump wrote on Twitter, before again promoting the resort’s amenities.

“But, as usual, the hostile media & Democrat partners went CRAZY!”

Trump added: “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.”

The decision to host the Group of 7 at Trump’s club was first announced by Mick Mulvaney, the President’s acting chief of staff, during a news briefing on Thursday at the White House, but Trump had hinted that the resort would be a possibility for months.

Democrats immediately portrayed the plan as a blatant act of self-dealing corruption, and ethics lawyers said payments from the visiting delegations could violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which forbids the President from accepting gifts and funding from foreign governments.

The White House stressed that Trump would not stand to profit personally from the event — Mulvaney said it could be held “at cost,” meaning that Trump would not make money — but the Doral would still have received a large amount of free publicity simply by hosting the summit.

An event with the size and scope of the Group of 7, which the White House had planned for next June, would have brought a cash windfall to the Doral and the surrounding area in South Florida, which has high vacancy rates at that time of year.

White House officials, at Trump’s suggestion, decided the Doral was the “best physical location” in the US for the meeting, Mulvaney said.

The US has held the Group of 7 in Houston, Puerto Rico, Denver, Sea Island and Camp David since the gatherings began in France in 1975.

On Saturday, Trump said that Camp David, as well as other locations, would be considered, two days after Mulvaney said all of the attendees to the 2012 summit there, hosted by President Barack Obama, believed it was a “miserable” venue.

But for the right one, the economic boost can be significant: A study by the University of Toronto in 2010 estimated that the summit, held that year as the Group of 8 in Huntsville, Ontario, would bring the area $300 million in benefits.

The Doral has struggled financially since the Trump family bought the resort out of bankruptcy in 2012, reportedly paying $150 million for the property. More than $100 million in loans to help finance the project came from Deutsche Bank.

Democrats in the House and Senate quickly introduced legislation intended to block the use of the Doral, a bill they called “Trump’s Heist Undermines the G7,” or the Thug Act.

The measure would have blocked the use of federal funds for the Group of 7 if the event were held at the Doral.

“Trump is unashamed of his corruption,” said Representative Lois Frankel, Democrat of Florida, said in a statement Friday. “He is abusing the office of the presidency and violating law by directing millions of dollars of American and foreign money to his family enterprises by holding an important meeting of world leaders at his Doral resort.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who has helped lead the effort by Democrats in Congress to challenge federal and foreign spending at Trump resorts, said the President’s reversal was a sign that he himself saw that his standing in Washington was weakening.

“He backed down because of cracks in support from his own party, plain and simple,” Blumenthal said.

“The threat that his shattering Republican support on this issue and Syria potentially impacting the solid wall on impeachment — that all is threatening him more deeply than he ever expected.”

House and Senate Democrats, Blumenthal added, will continue to press ahead with a lawsuit pending in federal court that claims spending at Trump’s resorts by foreign government officials violates the Constitution.

“His backing down doesn’t excuse his continued corrupt acceptance of foreign payments and benefits in violation of the Constitution,” he said.

Lawyers who have served in both Republican and Democratic administrations objected to the selection of the Doral, including several who emphasised that even though Trump, as President, is exempt from a federal conflict-of-interest statute, his role in the matter was improper.

“It stinks,” said Charles Fried, a Harvard law professor who served as solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan. “It is so completely blatant.”

Some Republicans in Congress also questioned Trump’s move.

“In the law, there’s a canon that says, avoid the appearance of impropriety,” Representative Francis Rooney, Republican of Florida, told reporters on Friday, adding, “I think that would be better if he would not use his hotel for this kind of stuff.”

Former White House officials expressed shock that Trump would consider hosting an event that would enrich his family, and suggested that the choice would also pose immediate ethical concerns for the world leaders invited to the summit.

“The appearance of impropriety and self-enrichment will likely be troubling to at least some G7 leaders,” said Daniel M. Price, who helped organize the summits for President George W. Bush.

“If I were still the US sherpa and the President was invited to attend a summit

at a business resort owned by the foreign leader host, my first question would be to White House counsel about whether ethics rules would permit the President to attend.”