Trump pushes to hold next G-7 at his Florida resort

The Doral in Florida, which Mr Donald Trump bought in 2012 with the help of US$125 million (S$174 million) in loans from Deutsche Bank, supplies him with more revenue than any of his other hotels.
The Doral in Florida, which Mr Donald Trump bought in 2012 with the help of US$125 million (S$174 million) in loans from Deutsche Bank, supplies him with more revenue than any of his other hotels.PHOTO: WASHINGTON POST

Abrupt announcement raises questions about logistical challenges of huge operation

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump had announced in France that he was likely to hold next year's Group of Seven summit - an event involving seven world leaders, hundreds of diplomats, and a huge police presence - at his own golf resort in Doral, Florida.

Back in Doral, police chief Hernan Organvidez was caught by surprise. If the summit came to the city, Mr Organvidez would be a crucial part of preparations - trying to turn a sprawling golf course surrounded by houses, busy streets and a nearby airport into a walled-off island. But nobody has told him he needs to make such plans.

Mr Organvidez said that after hearing Mr Trump's remarks on Monday, he called the head of the local Secret Service office.

He asked: Who would pay for the preparations? When would it happen? No answers.

"I have rumours," Mr Organvidez said, but nothing else.

Mr Trump's promotion of Doral as the best site for the international summit has renewed criticism that he is using his office to generate revenue for his private business - and in this case, in possible violation of a constitutional ban on presidents accepting foreign payments.

The President's abrupt announcement also raised questions about how Doral would handle the logistical challenges of such an enormous undertaking - and what preparations, if any, are underway.

Mr Trump's promotion of Doral as the best site for the international summit has renewed criticism that he is using his office to generate revenue for his private business - and in this case, in possible violation of a constitutional ban on presidents accepting foreign payments.

Officials in South Florida said they had been given no orders to make plans - even in a preliminary way - for hosting the summit.

In recent years, US officials have chosen isolated sites for the confab: the presidential retreat Camp David, in Maryland, and Sea Island, off the coast of Georgia.

If Mr Trump taps Doral, officials would have to create the same secure cordon on a far more complicated site: a patchwork of office parks near the Miami airport, with busy roads on all sides.

"Nuts," said Mr Robert Goodwin, a George W. Bush appointee who ran the 2004 Group of Eight summit at Sea Island, about the idea of a Doral summit. At the Sea Island summit, he said, organisers sealed off the island, flew world leaders in by helicopter and used navy ships and advanced radar planes to patrol the seas nearby. A no-fly zone shut down the airspace above.

That was easier, Mr Goodwin said, because they had an island.

He said the busy Miami airport might be affected and that organisers would have to scour nearby neighbourhoods for people seeking to launch a rocket or other airborne attack.

 
 
 

The location of the G-7 summit, for which hosting duties rotate among the member countries, is at the discretion of the president when it is held in the United States.

White House spokesman Stephanie Grisham on Tuesday said Doral is among several potential sites being considered. A date for the event has not been selected.

Mr Trump said a search for a site had led them to favour his own 643-room golf resort, which has struggled with falling revenue and profit in recent years. "It's, like, such a natural," he said on Monday.

Mr Trump is facing a lawsuit filed by congressional Democrats for allegedly violating the Constitution's ban on emoluments, or payments from foreign states. He has said he does not believe he would profit if the event is held at Doral.

"I don't want to make money," he said on Monday. His company has said it donates all profits from foreign-government business to the US Treasury but does not detail how it calculates that profit.

Officials in South Florida are worried - especially because they were not even sure when the summit might be. "If it happens somewhere else, God bless 'em," said Mr Organvidez, the Doral police chief. "If it happens here, God bless me."

The Doral, which Mr Trump bought in 2012 with the help of US$125 million (S$174 million) in loans from Deutsche Bank, gives him more revenue than any of his other hotels.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2019, with the headline 'Trump pushes to hold next G-7 at his Florida resort'. Print Edition | Subscribe