President Trump on Monday defended the initial decision to host next year’s G-7 summit at his golf resort near Miami, dismissing concerns that he would have personally profited from the event and deriding “this phony Emoluments Clause” in the Constitution.
On Saturday, Trump abruptly reversed the plan — announced just two days earlier by his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney — to hold the next Group of Seven world leaders’ meeting at Trump National Doral.
“I would have given it for nothing,” Trump said before a Cabinet meeting Monday. “The Democrats went crazy, even though I would have done it free.”
Mulvaney said last Thursday the resort, one of Trump’s most valuable properties, would have hosted the three-day summit in June “at cost.”
The Washington Post pointed out that the Doral, whose profitability has fallen since Trump became president, is typically less than 40 percent occupied in June, but the website listed all 643 rooms as fully booked from May 31 to June 15, presumably in anticipation of the business.
Before taking office, Trump said he would turn over his business to a trust administered by his family and business associates, and he posed with a desk piled with papers that he claimed ratified that arrangement. Mulvaney did not explain how his boss could promise the use of his resort for free or at cost if he no longer managed it directly, but in an interview on Fox News Sunday Mulvaney observed that “at the end of the day he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business.”
Democrats weren’t the only ones raising concerns that the plan would have violated the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits government officials from receiving gifts or payments from foreign governments.
“Holding the G-7 at a Trump property is one of the most foolish, unseemly things the [White House] could do,” Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, tweeted after the initial plan was announced. “The President enjoys waiving red flags in front of bulls, but this fight isn’t worth it.”
Trump dismissed the idea that he could be subject to such constraints.
“You people with this phony Emoluments Clause,” the president said.
Critics said that even if Trump didn’t profit directly from the event, hosting the prestigious meeting of heads of state represents an enormous branding opportunity for Trump’s resort business.
Trump dismissed that criticism, too.
“I don’t need promotion. I don’t need promotion,” Trump said, adding: “It would have been the best G-7 ever.”
Trump then wondered aloud why there was no uproar when former President Barack Obama signed deals for book and television projects.
“Obama made a deal for a book. Did he run a business?” Trump asked reporters. “He has a deal with Netflix. When did they start talking about that?”
Barack and Michelle Obama signed a joint book deal for a reported $65 million in March 2017, two months after Trump’s inauguration; they signed production deal with Netflix in May 2018 — more than a year after leaving office.
Trump touted the decision to donate his $400,000 annual presidential salary to charity as proof he doesn’t care about profiting from the office.
He also falsely claimed no president other than him has refused a salary; Presidents Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy donated theirs.
Meanwhile, Trump estimated it has cost him $2 billion to $5 billion “between what I lose and what I could’ve made” to be president.
“I don’t care,” he said. “If you’re rich it doesn’t matter.”
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