SHANNON, IRELAND (REUTERS) - US Vice-President Mike Pence drew fire from Democrats on Tuesday (Sept 3) when he met Irish leaders in the capital, Dublin, but stayed at a hotel owned by President Donald Trump almost 300km away, at Mr Trump's urging.
Mr Pence flew to Dublin on Tuesday after spending the night at the Trump International Golf Club in Doonbeg on the west coast of Ireland. The hotel also hosted the Trump family during a brief trip to Ireland by the president in June.
Asked if Mr Trump had suggested that Mr Pence stay at the property, the vice-president's chief of staff, Mr Marc Short, told journalists: "I think that it was a suggestion."
"It's like when we went through the trip it's like, 'Well, he's going to Doonbeg because that is where his family is from, it's like 'oh, you should stay at my place'," Mr Short said. "It wasn't like a 'you must.' It wasn't like a 'you have to.'"
California Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu accused Mr Pence in a post on Twitter of "funnelling taxpayer money" to Mr Trump by staying at the hotel. "You took an oath to the Constitution, not to @realDonaldTrump," Mr Lieu said.
The Democratic National Committee also chimed in, saying in a post on its DNC War Room Twitter feed that Mr Pence's choice of hotel meant "your tax dollars: making the Trump family richer".
Mr Pence's stay was paid for by US taxpayers, Mr Short said, but the vice-president personally paid for his sister and mother who had travelled with him. Mr Pence's great-grandmother was from Doonbeg.
Mr Trump has retained ownership of his hotels, golf courses and other businesses, but he gave control of the businesses to his sons shortly before he took office in January 2017.
Former government ethics officials and watchdog groups say Mr Trump has failed to put safeguards in place to ensure that he does not directly profit from his actions as president.
Mr Short said the original plan had been for Mr Pence to hold meetings in Dublin and to head to Doonbeg afterwards. A last-minute schedule change meant Mr Pence would need to visit Dublin after staying overnight in Ireland, and Mr Trump's property had already been vetted.
Mr Trump on Thursday cancelled a visit to Poland in order to monitor Hurricane Dorian, and sent Mr Pence in his stead. He was later criticised for playing golf during that time.
In Dublin, Mr Pence met Irish President Michael Higgins and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, after urging Britain to leave the European Union in a manner that ensures stability in Ireland and respects Northern Ireland's 1998 peace deal.