By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned plans late on Saturday to host next year’s Group of Seven summit at his Florida golf resort, after Democrats and others had decried the selection as evidence of the president misusing his office for personal gain.
In a series of tweets, Trump said he would drop the plan announced Thursday by White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to host the meeting at Trump National Doral golf resort near Miami from June 10 to 12. Trump cited what he termed “Crazed and Irrational Hostility” from Democrats and the news media in explaining the reversal. “We will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately,” he wrote.
The Republican president faces criticism and a number of congressional investigations over his finances and potential conflicts of interest stemming from his real estate business, which he still owns, and an impeachment inquiry into accusations that he pursued political interests in his dealings with Ukraine.
On Saturday, Trump sought in his unusual reversal to emphasize what he said were the resort’s positive features for hosting a large gathering. “I thought I was doing something very good for our Country,” he wrote on Twitter.
The U.S. constitution’s emoluments clause prohibits government officials from receiving salaries, fees or profits from foreign and domestic governments without congressional approval.
Watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said on Saturday the initial decision to award the event to a Trump property was “stunningly corrupt” but the “reversal shows that pressure works”.
“The president deserves no plaudits for doing the right thing only after public outcry forced him not to do the wrong thing,” it said.
Democrats have said they would investigate Trump’s plan to host the G7 at his property after he floated the idea in August. The decision also sparked criticism from a number of Republicans.
In a statement on Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler called the announcement “among the most brazen examples yet of the president’s corruption.” Nadler said the committee would continue investigating “regarding these matters.”
The announcement prompted requests from Democrats for detailed records from the White House to explain why other 11 other sites were not chosen and how much taxpayers would pay.
In May, the Washington Post reported Doral’s operating income had fallen 69 percent since 2015, citing company documents that it reviewed.
Mulvaney had suggested on Thursday that Trump would not profit from use of the property because any charges would be “at cost.”
He also said using Doral “was millions of dollars cheaper” than other facilities and would lead to a “roughly 50% savings” – but the White House did not release any documents to explain that analysis.
Then President Barack Obama held the 2012 G8 summit at Camp David, which is in Maryland, about 60 miles (100 km) northwest of Washington.
Trump first floated the idea in August after attending the G7 in France. He has also hosted world leaders at some of his other properties, including at his Mar-a-Lago oceanfront club in Palm Beach, Florida.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Raju Gopalakrishnan)