President Trump said Wednesday that the idea for Vice President Mike Pence to stay at his Irish golf resort didn’t come from him — contradicting a previous statement by Pence’s top aide.
“I had no involvement,” said Trump. “I don’t suggest anything. ... I have a lot of hotels all over the place, and people use them because they’re the best, you know, they’re the best.”
Trump added an unprompted denial that he told Attorney General William Barr to hold his $30,000 holiday party at the president’s D.C. hotel.
Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, told reporters on Tuesday that Trump did suggest the vice president stay at the Trump National at Doonbeg, 181 miles from Dublin, where his meetings were taking place. The vice president flew back and forth on Air Force Two.
“I don’t think it was a request, like a command. I think that it was a suggestion,” said Short. “It’s like, ‘Well, you should stay at my place.’”
On Wednesday morning, a White House official told CNN that Short was mistaken.
“WH official says Pence Chief of Staff Marc Short was incorrect when he told reporters that Trump suggested that the VP stay at the Trump Golf Club in Ireland,” reported White House correspondent Jim Acosta. “Overnight VP’s office clarified the decision was made by Pence’s staff. But Short first said Trump made the ‘suggestion.’”
The initial reasoning for staying there, provided by Short, was security: The club is “the size that … we think can accommodate us, and Secret Service can protect us,” and it is “a facility that could accommodate the team.”
“I understand political attacks by Democrats, but if you have a chance to get to Doonbeg, you’ll find it’s a fairly small place,” Pence told reporters earlier this week, “and the opportunity to stay at the Trump National in Doonbeg, to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel, made it logical.”
But Pence’s staff changed their explanation after Politico reported that many veterans of the Secret Service protective detail said the logistical issues were irrelevant. “The Secret Service is capable of providing protection anywhere and anytime as it has over its history including under arduous circumstances like combat zones,” Donald Mihalek, who served in the Secret Service for 20 years and is now executive director of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, told the outlet.
At that point, Pence’s staff said they were staying at the club because it was close to the vice president’s ancestral home. His great-grandmother had lived there, next door to a castle.
“To have an opportunity to connect to the roots of my family, I think, supports the relationship between the United States and Ireland,” said Pence. “I mean, if you think about the bonds that exist between the Irish people and the American people, they have much to do with shared heritage, they have much to do with family. That’s why it was important for me, before our original trip plan, to at least spend one night in Doonbeg."
Trump has drawn criticism for continuing to promote his properties as president, which Democrats say violates the Constitution’s emoluments clause. The latest round of pushback came when Trump said next year’s G-7 summit should be held at his Doral golf resort in Florida.
Following the president’s comments, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., issued a statement saying that the G-7 should not be held at a Trump property.
“Under no circumstances should the G-7 be held at Trump’s Doral resort, which would be one of the most egregious examples of corruption and self-dealing in a presidency replete with them,” said Wyden. “Trump is using the office to line his own pockets at the expense of the American people and our standing in the world. Requiring our allies to spend money at the president’s hotel to attend the G-7 would be an insult to them and a violation of our Constitution’s emoluments clause.”
The House Judiciary Committee announced last week that it intends to investigate Trump driving business to his family operations, with Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., stating, “The President’s personal financial interests are clearly shaping decisions about official U.S. government activities, and this is precisely the type of risk that the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses were intended to prevent.”
A June Washington Post analysis found that Trump’s own visits to his properties generated at least $1.6 million in business for him just in the first six months of 2017 — paid mostly by the government and the Trump campaign — despite concerns that “he was using the power of the presidency to direct taxpayer money into his own pockets.” A lobbyist funded by Saudi Arabia paid for 500 rooms at Trump’s Washington hotel following the 2016 election. Trump has previously hosted world leaders at his properties, launching an April 2017 missile strike against Syria during a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
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