Trump to host G-7 summit at his Doral resort, White House says

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump intends to host next year’s Group of Seven conference at his Doral International Resort in Miami in June, the White House confirmed Thursday, a controversial decision certain to raise conflict-of-interest questions given the financial benefit to Trump’s business.

Trump first floated the idea of the Doral in August at the G-7 meeting in Biarritz, France, telling reporters that his property was far better than others his administration had considered, given its proximity to a major airport and the abundance of accommodations and meeting space on site.

The idea immediately generated controversy. Trump is already fighting three lawsuits suggesting that he is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits U.S. officeholders from personally profiting from payments by foreign governments.

Noah Bookbinder, executive director of watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Trump was using the U.S. government as a marketing arm of the Trump Organization.

“This is unbelievable,” Bookbinder said. “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. 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.”

But White House acting chief of staff mick Mulvaney told reporters that the decision, which he acknowledged was Trump’s idea, would not represent a conflict.

“The president has pretty much made it clear that he doesn’t profit,” Mulvaney said. The resort would host the foreign delegations for the G-7 conference “at cost,” he said, adding that Doral was “far and away the best physical facility for this meeting.”

The longtime presidential retreat at Camp David, by contrast, is “miserable,” he said.

Mulvaney acknowledged criticism that even if the event itself did not generate a profit, it would be a major branding opportunity for Trump’s resorts, but said that should not be considered a problem.

“Consider the possibility that Donald Trump’s brand is probably strong enough as it is,” he said. “It’s the most recognized name in the English language.”

He said the public would “absolutely not” see any documents on how the decision was made because it involved confidential White House processes, and he glibly dismissed a question about whether the decision sent a message to the world about self-dealing.

“There will be folks that will never get over that it’s a Trump property. We get that,” Mulvaney said. “He’s not making any money off of this, just like he’s not making any money from working here.”

In fact, Trump’s presidency has had a mixed impact on his businesses. Some of his properties, most notably his hotel in Washington, have seen a big increase in business, much of it from customers with political interests, including foreign governments that may be seeking to curry favor with the White House. Other Trump properties have seen a sharp decline in business as groups have canceled events to avoid being affected by political controversies.

In the emoluments cases, which were brought by more than 200 Democratic lawmakers last year, plaintiffs have pointed particularly to the Washington hotel, where a number of heads of state and foreign delegations have stayed during official visits. They allege that the president is illegally benefiting financially from his position because so many foreign leaders are essentially putting money into his personal coffers.

Thursday’s announcement about the G-7 comes at an especially tempestuous time for the president, who is facing a fast-moving House impeachment inquiry that could imperil his firewall of GOP support, and a bipartisan backlash over his withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria and the ensuing Turkish invasion that has led to heavy Kurdish casualties.

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