Trump draws criticism for picking his Miami golf resort for G-7 summit

US President Donald Trump pitched hosting next year's Group of Seven summit at Trump National Doral in Miami in August. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
US President Donald Trump pitched hosting next year's Group of Seven summit at Trump National Doral in Miami in August. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • United States Pre-sident Donald Trump's Doral golf resort in Miami will be the site of next year's Group of Seven (G-7) summit, a decision that reignited claims that he is violating a constitutional prohibition against profiting from the presidency.

The announcement, from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Thursday, came as the President faces a House impeachment inquiry.

Mr Trump has been attacking rival presidential candidate Joe Biden, saying that when Mr Biden was vice-president, he used his position to further his son Hunter's business interests.

"It is almost like they built this facility to host this type of event," Mr Mulvaney told reporters at the White House, saying that "a lot of the same criteria" used for past summits were applied to choosing the site. He said the President "will not be profiting here" and that Doral will be much less expensive than other alternatives.

The President pitched hosting next year's G-7 summit at Trump National Doral at the August gathering of leaders in Biarritz, France, saying that the luxury property is very big, and that each country could "have their own villa or their own bungalow".

With the host setting much of the agenda for a G-7 meeting, Mr Mulvaney said that Mr Trump could invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend the June 10 to 12 event, although he said that the issue has not come up yet. He also said that climate change is not on the agenda.

After Mr Trump's initial comments in August, the House Judiciary Committee said that it would investigate the proposed site selection as part of its ongoing probe to determine whether to bring articles of impeachment against the President.

House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, who criticised Mr Trump's suggestion in August, said on Thursday that the selection breached the ban on foreign "emoluments" to a president.

The Democrat from New York said: "This is a blatant violation of the emoluments clause of the US Constitution.

 
 
 

"The President uses his official office to bring an official function to his business to personally benefit from it. This is why the emoluments clause is written into the US Constitution to prevent this type of corruption."

Mr Nadler is party to a lawsuit, along with about 200 other members of Congress, to enforce the Constitution's emoluments clause.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, one of the Demo-crats on the lawsuit, said he will add Mr Trump's G-7 decision to the complaint.

"If you wanted a classic violation of the United States Constitution, you couldn't think of a clearer set of actions," he said.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, said "no" when asked if it is appropriate for Mr Trump to host the multilateral summit at his own property.

The decision, however, got a thumbs-up from Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who said he "selfishly" liked to see his state get attention and that ot-hers in the nearby community would benefit from staging the event there.

Mr Trump's decision to maintain his varied private business holdings while in office has drawn criticism from ethics experts and led to several lawsuits. Mr Trump has said he is likely losing billions of dollars by serving as President.

Most legal actions accusing Mr Trump of serially violating the emoluments ban so far have not advanced far enough to resolve underlying constitutional issues.

Mr Trump's business, the Trump Organisation, has sought to counter criticism by donating profit from foreign leaders' visits to the US Treasury, which his critics say is an unenforceable commitment that does not resolve the constitutional issue.

Even if the Trump Organisation turns over profit from the G-7 summit, the Doral golf resort would benefit in other ways from hosting a summit of world leaders. The resort would get free publicity that could boost future profit.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2019, with the headline 'Trump draws criticism for picking his Miami golf resort for G-7 summit'. Print Edition | Subscribe