Like so many initiatives in the Trump presidency, the Trump Doral Group of Seven summit at first sounded like a joke. As the last G-7 meeting wrapped in France in August, Donald Trump used the platform to suggest he might host the 2020 meeting, which is due to be held in the United States, at his struggling Trump National Doral golf resort near Miami. With cameras from around the world rolling, the president boasted that his property is close to the airport, has ample parking and features a layout that would suit a big international conference.
Perhaps all he wanted to do was plug Doral? Nope. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announced at a Thursday news conference that the G-7 actually would be held there. This was not a jest: It was blatant and corrupt self-dealing by the president.
This was not the first time Trump had recommended that the administration use one of his properties for official purposes. Last month, Vice President Mike Pence stayed at the president’s Doonbeg resort when he visited Ireland, which required Pence to fly across the country for meetings in Dublin.
The Trump crew’s typical response to questions about self-dealing is to claim that the president will not profit. “They’re doing this at cost,” Mulvaney insisted. But selling out Doral at cost for a while might have marked a welcome departure for the Trump Organization: The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold points out that between 2016 and 2017, revenue at Doral fell 13.8 percent and net operating income declined 62 percent. Just the publicity that Doral would have gotten, not to mention the prestige the business would have claimed long after hosting a major international conference, would have been valuable.
Profit or its absence is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution’s emolument clause. Instead, it simply says the president may not, without the consent of Congress, accept compensation “of any kind whatever” from any “foreign state.” If a Doral summit would not have violated this stricture, then nothing would.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he had changed his mind. This was not because he realized he had blundered ethically, but due to what he called “Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility.” We hope that this is his final answer on this question — and that Congress takes this opportunity to look more critically at Trump’s intermingling of personal and official business.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST