President Donald Trump pulled his Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami as the venue for the 2020 Group of Seven meeting after facing widespread criticism that he was using a major government event for personal gain.
The search will start for a new location, including the possibility of using Camp David, he said in a tweet late Saturday night. In earlier posts, Trump defended the decision to pick the resort, touting the venue’s various amenities.
Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, said Sunday that Trump had only wanted to “put on absolutely the best show” at Doral, and had been “honestly surprised at the level of pushback.”
“I thought I was doing something very good for our Country,” Trump said, responding to what he called “crazed and irrational hostility.” He added that he would have offered his resort at no profit and even no cost to the U.S. if permitted.
The swift reversal also follows Republicans’ discomfort with defending Trump’s move to spend taxpayer cash at his financially struggling property. It was a decision government ethics experts decried as a blatant misuse of authority, and the latest example Trump is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits U.S. officials from receiving payments or gifts from foreign governments.
While Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said hosting the G-7 at Doral could give a boost to the local economy, some Republicans found the decision a bridge too far. When Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, was asked if it’s appropriate for Trump to host the summit at a hotel he owns, she had a simple answer: “No.”
Republican Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho told the Washington Post that the move was politically insensitive. “They should have known what the kickback is going to be on this, that politically he’s doing it for his own benefit.”
By selecting the Doral golf resort in Florida to host the 2020 G-7 meeting, Trump would have chosen a struggling property among his holdings to showcase on the world stage. Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization would release Doral’s earnings, but Trump’s financial disclosures suggest that annual revenue has fallen by 25% since 2015.
The resort, with its four golf courses, lost $2.4 million in 2014, according to the New York Times. Company records disclosed in a property tax dispute show that net operating income rebounded to about $12 million in 2016, but it fell by almost 66% the following year, according to the Washington Post.
The Miami Herald reported in August that Miami-Dade appraisers had this year lowered the value of the 643-room hotel and conference center by 2%, based on falling income. The facility also lost a major professional golf tournament in 2017 after hosting it annually for a decade.
Mulvaney announced the move to hold the G-7 at Doral at a raucous press conference on Thursday. The facility was selected from an initial list of about a dozen other sites, and about 10 properties were visited as part of the process, Mulvaney said, without providing specifics.
Three Democratic Senators wrote on Thursday to Trump, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and other top officials, demanding documentation on the process used to select Doral, along with evidence it had been vetted along with multiple other properties, as Mulvaney said.
Senators Gary Peters of Michigan, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Sherrod Brown of Ohio asked for a list of all cities and venues that were under consideration; a timeline of the process; any bids submitted by other locales; the agencies involved in the selection and where officials may have traveled on fact-finding missions; and various other information.
Also on the wish-list: a copy of a “negotiated contract” with Trump National Doral.
The Campaign Legal Center, an ethics group, called the choice of Doral “corruption pure and simple.” Walter Shaub, a former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and a regular Trump critic, tweeted that “there here is no level of corruption greater than a President participating in the award of a contract to himself. We have reached the bottom.”
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