The White House announced on Thursday that next year’s G-7 summit will be held at a resort hotel the president owns near Miami, the Trump National Doral, raising concerns that he would personally profit from the presidency.
The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution prohibits government officials from receiving gifts or payments from foreign governments, who would be subsidizing the stays of their diplomats at the three-day-long meeting in June.
“Given the potential consequences the president is facing for abusing the presidency for his own gain, we would have thought he would steer clear of blatant corruption at least temporarily,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, said in a a statement. “Instead he has doubled down on it. The president is now officially using the power of his office to help prop up his struggling golf business. There appears to be no bottom to President Trump’s corruption.”
“Holding the G-7 at a Trump property is one of the most foolish, unseemly things the [White House] could do,” tweeted Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush. “The President enjoys waiving red flags in front of bulls, but this fight isn’t worth it.”
Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, said the selection was “an escalation” that crossed an ethical line.
“It may look from the outside like it’s been corruption all along,” Shaub tweeted, “but participating in a contract award to yourself is different by orders of magnitude. This is a red line crossed.”
“This is corruption, plain and simple,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote on Twitter.
At a press briefing Thursday, Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, was peppered with questions from reporters about the selection process.
He dismissed the notion that Trump would profit from the event, saying the White House would ultimately save money because the event was being produced “at cost.”
“I think the president has pretty much made it very clear since he got here that he doesn’t profit from being here,” Mulvaney said. “He has no interest in profiting from being here.”
Mulvaney said the Trump property was chosen over 11 other sites, including venues in Hawaii and Utah, and claimed that the White House used the “same set of criteria” as previous administrations.
“The advance team called and said this was the perfect physical location to do this,” he said.
The chief of staff said there were “limitations” at other locations.
“There was one place — I won’t say where — where we had to figure out if we were going to have to have oxygen tanks for the participants because of the altitude,” Mulvaney said.
Critics point out that even if the hotel doesn’t build in any profit to its charges — something impossible for outsiders to verify — hosting the prestigious meeting of heads of state represents an enormous branding opportunity for Trump’s resort business. Mulvaney dismissed that idea too.
“Donald Trump’s brand is probably strong enough as it is,” he said. “He doesn’t need any more help on that. It’s the most recognizable name in the English language and probably around the world.”
In May, the Washington Post reported that business at the 643-room Doral Miami resort was in “sharp decline,” and that its net operating income had fallen by 69 percent in the first two years of the Trump presidency.
Mulvaney said Trump himself came up with the idea to add his Miami golf resort to the list of possible G-7 venues.
“We sat around one night, we were back in the dining room, going over it with our advance team, and we had the list, and he goes, ‘What about Doral?’” Mulvaney recalled. “And we go, ‘That’s not the craziest idea.’”
Read more from Yahoo News: