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Shrugging off allegations of self-dealing, Trump picks his Doral resort for G-7 summit

Openly rebuffing congressional investigators and dismissing political optics, President Donald Trump will hold the G-7 summit of world leaders at one of his family’s resorts in the middle of an election year — shrugging off a House impeachment inquiry into whether he is illegally making money off the presidency.

Trump’s decision to inject millions of dollars into his financially struggling Trump National Doral Miami resort puts him at risk of violating the Constitution and adding momentum to the congressional investigation just as he embarks on his reelection campaign..

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“The only logical conclusion is that President Trump is proud to be the most corrupt, lawless president in modern American history,” said Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), chairwoman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee with jurisdiction over Trump’s Washington hotel. “This casual corruption is happening in plain sight.”

Trump expected the immediate criticism by lawmakers and ethics experts who were in near disbelief that he would blatantly disregard their previous warnings not to hold the summit at his resort. But unlike a typical politician who cares about appearances and optics, he not only didn’t mind, he welcomed the firestorm.

An outside Trump adviser said the president, facing a barrage of criticism from all directions on everything from removing troops in Syria to his call to the leader of Ukraine, has become “fearless” because he has seen over and over again that he won’t lose the backing of supporters no matter what seemingly outrageous action he takes.

“He doesn’t care about the noise the media and the left make,” the person said. “He has demonstrated he’s bulletproof.”

It was Trump, himself, who suggested to his staff that they consider holding the summit at Doral when they began considering sites, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said. After considering 12 locations, Doral was chosen.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) described it as “among the most brazen examples yet of the president’s corruption.“

Mulvaney, who is under fire for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate Trump’s potential 2020 opponent, Joe Biden, announced Trump’s decision at an unusual White House briefing that appeared designed to win the president’s praise.

The summit will take place next June 10-12, in the middle of his 2020 reelection campaign, just as Democrats pick a nominee to run against him.

Mulvaney said Trump would put on the event at cost and would not personally profit from the choice of venue “in any way, shape or form.“ He also dismissed questions about the president winning longer-term benefits from boosting the Trump corporate brand.

“I would simply ask you all 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.“

Last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened an impeachment inquiry that includes whether Trump is illegally making money off his presidency.

The emoluments clause of the Constitution forbids a president from profiting from foreign governments or receiving any money from the U.S. government except his or her annual salary.

On Thursday, Republican lawmakers showed little interest in the allegations of wrongdoing from the G-7 decision.

“I will keep my comments to myself. I’m just not gonna comment on the president for a while. I’ve done enough for a while,” said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), who recently announced he was no longer supporting Trump after he withdrew troops from Syria.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), whose district includes Doral, said he was “thrilled” by the news and expressed no concern over the summit being held at a Trump resort. “That’s my district. It’s a great, diverse community. It’s going to be great for the local economy. I’m thrilled.”

Trump has faced criticism outside the GOP for not fully separating himself from his eponymous company after he was sworn into office. The president still owns his business but has placed his holdings in a trust designed to hold assets for his benefit. He can receive money from the trust at any time without the public’s knowledge.

Trump previously mentioned Doral as a potential location for the annual summit during the most recent G-7 meeting in August, when foreign leaders convened in Biarritz, France. Democratic lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee urged Trump days later against choosing the Doral resort as the G-7 host site, warning that it would represent a potential violation of both the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses in the Constitution.

The Oversight and Judiciary committees have already demanded the administration and Trump’s company for details about the president suggesting the summit be held at one of his resorts.

Trump frequently visits his properties — primarily in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia — and has traveled to them more than 300 times since he was sworn into office, according to a compilation of information released by the White House. In 2017, he and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top presidential adviser, even made a brief unannounced stop at the Trump International Hotel in Honolulu to thank employees for their work.

Trump already faces lawsuits alleging he violated the Constitution by accepting payments from foreign officials at his resorts and hotels. His company donated nearly $ 200,000 to the U.S. Treasury in February that it said came from profits from foreign governments, but watchdog groups say the amount should be higher.

“This is unbelievable,“ said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is involved with one of the lawsuits. “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.“

Trump has repeatedly denied that he is using the presidency to promote his resorts. “I have a lot of hotels all over the place, and people, they use them because they’re the best,” he told reporters last month.

Revenue increased at many of the resorts Trump visited in 2018, according to Trump’s most recent personal financial disclosure forms. But Doral’s net operating income fell by 69 percent over the past two years. That comes even as Trump’s overall income dipped slightly from $ 450 million in 2017 to $ 434 million in 2018.

Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.

Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

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