WASHINGTON — Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announced Thursday that next year’s Group of Seven summit of world leaders will be held at President Donald Trump’s private Miami-area resort, drawing immediate criticism that Trump is seeking to personally profit from the presidency.
Mulvaney said that roughly a dozen locations were considered for the event — including a location in Hawaii and two in Utah — but Trump National Doral Miami, a golf resort in south Florida owned by the president, won out.
The White House insisted that Trump would not profit off the G-7 meeting, despite widespread concern that hosting the event at one of his private properties violates the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
“This is the perfect physical location to do this,” Mulvaney told reporters Thursday, adding that the White House advance team visited multiple potential locations and reported back that it was “almost like they built [Doral] to host this type of event.”
Dismissing questions about conflicts of interest, Mulvaney said that the White House used the same criteria to pick a location as past administrations, such as the number of rooms, proximity to airports, medical facilities and landing areas for helicopters.
Mulvaney claimed that hosting the G-7 at Doral would save the government millions of dollars, telling reporters that it would be “roughly 50 percent savings.” He did not provide exact numbers, or say how the government arrived at this determination. He also said the White House discussed hosting the summit at Doral at no cost, but claimed ultimately it was “not possible.”
The president has come under scrutiny throughout his presidency for how often he visits Trump-branded properties, which in turn leads to tax dollars being spent at his businesses.
The G-7 summit will draw to his property thousands of foreign government officials from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom, among other invited countries, as well as the international press.
Trump is already facing multiple lawsuits and congressional investigations related to claims that he is profiting off the presidency. Earlier this week, a federal appeals court revived a lawsuit that challenges his ownership of a luxury hotel in Washington. In September, Congress launched an investigation into stays by Air Force personnel at Trump’s luxury golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., called Mulvaney’s announcement “among the most brazen examples yet of the president’s corruption” and said his committee would continue to press for answers about the nature of the selection process. The panel had announced a probe in August when the president first seriously floated his property as a possible location for the summit.
“He is exploiting his office and making official U.S. government decisions for his personal financial gain. The Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution exist to prevent exactly this kind of corruption,” Nadler said in a statement.
The decision reignited criticism from other Democrats, as well as good-government groups like Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a front-runner for the party’s nomination in 2020, called it “corruption, plain and simple.”
“This is unbelievable,” CREW’s executive director, Noah Bookbinder, said in a statement.
“The president is now officially using the power of his office to help prop up his struggling golf business,” Bookbinder added.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., issued a statement urging foreign governments “to seek accommodation elsewhere,” noting that there “is no shortage of hotels in the Miami area.” Wyden also encouraged Congress to “work to defund this effort to force the G-7 to be held elsewhere.”
Although Republicans have largely defended the White House’s decision,Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, expressed disapproval, telling reporters “no” when asked if she thought the Doral was an appropriate choice.
Despite the White House’s insistence that Doral is the “perfect” location to host world leaders, the Miami resort was the subject of a 2016 lawsuit brought by Eric Linder, a New Jersey insurance executive, who claimed that he woke up with dozens of bedbug bites while staying there in March of that year. The resort and Linder settled in a confidential agreement in 2017, The Miami Herald reported.
Additionally, Florida authorities found more than 500 health code violations at the resort between 2013 and 2018, The Daily Beast reported.
The last time the United States hosted the G-7 was in 2012. President Barack Obama held it at Camp David, a government-owned property in Maryland.
“Why do they hold it at Camp David, I mean seriously?” Mulvaney said Thursday, calling that summit a “complete disaster.”
Julie Tsirkin contributed.