The timing is either inauspicious or audacious, coming just two days after a federal appeals court revived a case against the president under the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which bars federal officials from profiting from foreign governments. Mulvaney wrote off any concerns about the arrangement as simple misunderstandings of branding.
“I would like you to consider the possibility that Donald Trump’s brand is probably strong enough as it is and he doesn’t need any more help on that,” he said. “It’s the most recognizable name in the English language and probably around the world right now.”
This is nonsensical and insulting. Trump, certainly, has never underestimated the power of brand, but in this case, his brand seems to have dealt a blow to Trump National Doral. As The Washington Post reported earlier this year, the resort has seen its revenues tumble, a slide that the Trump Organization’s own consultant attributed to the toxicity of the president’s name. By locating a huge conference there, with retinues from six other governments (or seven, if Trump gets his wish to bring Russia back into the organization), the president will both pump cash into Doral and gain the chance to rebrand the troubled resort—from struggling golf course to international summit destination.
Trump goes to properties he owns all the time as president, and each of those visits raises ethical questions. The government shells out cash to the Trump Organization for accommodations and space for security, plus there’s that brand exposure. There is at least a theoretical defense of these visits: Trump does own or manage these properties, and as president, he should be able to vacation where he feels most comfortable.
No such defense can be offered of the G7 decision, though, which looks like pure profiteering. Recent summits have been held at semi-isolated locations, the better to provide safety and security to the visiting dignitaries. Doral is in the middle of metro Dade County, in the flight path of the airport. (Trump even lied about the length of the trip from the airport to the resort in a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.)
David A. Graham: Trump invites Pence to stay at his place—then hands taxpayers the bill
Mulvaney knew he’d face questions about this, yet he didn’t bother to offer a serious answer.
“I was aware of the sort of political criticism we would come under for doing it at Doral which is why I was so surprised when the advance team came back and said this is the perfect physical location to do this,” he said.
On what grounds did the advance team come to this conclusion?
“If you want to see our paper on how we did this, the answer is absolutely not.”
And where did the idea to use Doral come from? From the professionals on the advance team? Of course not—it was Trump’s own scheme.