Another new low for squalid president

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Another new low for squalid president

Post by barney » Thu Oct 17, 2019 5:20 pm

Trump awards next G-7 summit to his own Miami-area resort
By Toluse Olorunnipa and David A. Fahrenthold

Washington: US President Donald Trump has awarded the 2020 G-7 Summit of world leaders to his own private company, scheduling the summit for June at his Trump Doral golf resort outside Miami, the White House has announced.

That decision is without precedent in modern American history: The President used his public office to direct a massive contract to himself. The G-7 Summit draws hundreds of diplomats, journalists and security personnel, as well as a worldwide spotlight.

The announcement to choose the President's own club as the site of an international summit comes as Trump is in the midst of twin crises that are consuming his presidency - a hasty and confused American retreat in Syria, and a growing impeachment inquiry in Congress.

"Doral was far and away the best physical facility for this meeting," acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said in announcing the decision on Thursday, local time. He said that the administration examined 10 sites before choosing this one. Mulvaney quoted an anonymous site-selection official as saying: "It's almost like they built this facility to host this type of event."

The G-7 Summit rotates between sites chosen by the seven member countries and the European Union. The last time it was held in the US, in 2012, President Barack Obama held it at the government-owned retreat at Camp David in Maryland. In 2004, President George W. Bush held it at the exclusive, isolated resort of Sea Island, Georgia.
This year, Trump had hinted repeatedly that he intended to award the event to himself. At the G-7 Summit in August in Biarritz, France, Trump said his aides had examined other sites and told him that Doral is the best. The site is set among office parks, in an inland area near the Miami airport.

"They went to places all over the country, and they came back and they said, 'This is where we'd like to be,' " Trump said then. "It's not about me. It's about getting the right location." He particularly praised the club's ample parking.

Doral is a major part of Trump's portfolio: It provides more revenue to him than any other hotel or golf club, and he took out $US125 million ($183 million) in loans to buy it.

But, in recent years, this keystone property has fallen into steep decline, with profits falling 69 per cent in three years. An expert hired by the Trump Organisation blamed the drop on Trump's politicised brand.

Trump's properties have hosted US government officials before, and the company says it does not seek to make a profit off that business. But even so, Trump's properties can be expensive: at his Mar-a-Lago Club, for instance, the government paid Trump's company $US546 per night for each staffer staying in the club's guest rooms, and another $US1,000 for a single night of drinking by White House aides at one of Mar-a-Lago's bars.

In this case, Trump's son Eric Trump - who helps run the Trump Organisation while his father is President - recently said that, if Doral was the choice, Trump would not over-charge his own government.

"It actually would have saved the US a tremendous amount of money in that they wouldn't be paying for massive amounts of rooms with some hospitality company that's going to milk the hell out of the US government," Eric Trump said at a forum put on by Yahoo! Finance last week.

For the Trump Organisation, the event would still bring guests to fill unfilled rooms as well as a glut of global publicity.

Trump has visited his own properties more than 100 times as President, sometimes bringing along foreign leaders. Those visits have resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for his businesses, as the US government - and other governments - pay for their personnel to accompany him.

But this is something on a different scale: seven foreign leaders, plus hundreds of other foreign personnel, would be housed at Trump's resort near the Miami airport. Trump is already facing lawsuits for allegedly violating the Constitution's ban on receiving "emoluments" from foreign governments.

By doing this, he could be inviting a huge increase in the very line of business that these lawsuits are scrutinising.

Trump bought the 57-year-old Doral golf resort in 2012, taking out $US125 million in loans from Deutsche Bank to finance the purchase. He then poured money into renovating it, relying heavily on a crew of Hispanic stone workers that included some undocumented immigrants, according to members of the crew.

Since 2015, however, the 643-room club's revenue and profits have both nosedived, according to figures that the Trump Organisation provided to Miami-Dade County last year.
"They are severely underperforming" other resorts in the area, tax consultant Jessica Vachiratevanurak, who had been hired by Trump, told a county official last year in a bid to lower the property's tax bill. Vachiratevanurak said the club's net operating income - a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid - had fallen by 69 per cent as of 2017.

The Trump Organisation itself has disputed that: it says the real problems scaring visitors away are the Zika virus and hurricanes. Doral revenue rebounded slightly in 2018, according to Trump's presidential financial disclosures, though it is unclear if profits went up or down.

In recent years, Doral has turned to Trump's political allies to replace some of its lost revenue: Last weekend, for instance, it hosted a pro-Trump group called "American Priority." Shown at that event: a violent video showing Trump shooting, stabbing and beheading both members of the media and some Democratic opponents, according to The New York Times.

Donald Trump has steadfastly refused to surrender his tax records to Congress.
Trump accountant told by appeals court to surrender tax records
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The selection of Doral as the site of the G-7 seems to signal the collapse of promises made by both Donald Trump and Eric Trump at the start of the Trump presidency, when they pledged to create separation between Trump's private business and his new public office.

"I will be leaving my great business in total," Trump said then.

"There are lines that we would never cross, and that's mixing business with anything government," Eric Trump said in 2017.

The Washington Post

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Re: Another new low for squalid president

Post by jserraglio » Thu Oct 17, 2019 5:44 pm

Trump could very well be hosting that G-7 as a private citizen, the first ever President to be impeached and convicted; but even if he survives his Senate trial, as now seems likely given the utter emasculation of the GOP, he will be hosting it as only the fourth President to be stigmatized by impeachment.

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Re: Another new low for squalid president

Post by Ricordanza » Fri Oct 18, 2019 6:24 am

I keep thinking of Trump's boast during the 2016 campaign: "I could go out in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn't lose any votes." In this instance, the conflict of interest is as clear as day. The president who promised to "drain the swamp" has instead proudly waded deeper than ever in the swamp.

Will his supporters object to this latest outrage? Probably not.

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Re: Another new low for squalid president

Post by lennygoran » Fri Oct 18, 2019 8:02 am

Ricordanza wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 6:24 am
I keep thinking of Trump's boast during the 2016 campaign: "I could go out in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn't lose any votes."
Hank exactly what came to my mind as I watched Mulvaney at that conference yesterday. Regards, Len

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Re: Another new low for squalid president

Post by barney » Fri Oct 18, 2019 9:36 pm

I almost wish he would. Then he could be locked up.

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Re: Another new low for squalid president

Post by jserraglio » Sat Oct 19, 2019 2:47 am

This WAPO update on G-7 Doral appeared today:


A day after President Trump awarded the huge Group of Seven summit to his own struggling Doral resort in Florida, the White House said Trump’s company would charge taxpayers only enough to cover the resort’s costs.
But neither the White House nor the Trump Organization answered more detailed questions about what that means. They did not provide specific dollar amounts or say whether dollar amounts have been agreed to.
“Everything will be done at cost due to the emoluments clause,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham wrote in an email message, “which means the summit would be significantly cheaper for taxpayers and our foreign guests.”
She was referring to the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which say presidents cannot accept payments from foreign governments or payments from the U.S. government in excess of his presidential salary.
For Trump, the potential benefits of awarding himself the summit go beyond the actual payments made by U.S. and foreign governments. International media exposure also comes with the summit — putting Trump National Doral Miami on televisions and websites around the world.
Resorts that have hosted the summit of world leaders, including the Lough Erne resort in Northern Ireland in 2013, have seen increased exposure and improvements in their business for years after the summit. “Lough Erne wouldn’t be the place it is today without the PR and the legacy of that event,” William Kirby, the resort’s general manager, told The Washington Post recently. “It’s the pinnacle of the resort history.”
That summit boosted the local economy and highlighted the resort on the world stage, he said. “You can’t buy that, can you?” Kirby said.
The White House appeared to be saying Trump was going to take payments from both foreign governments and the U.S. government — but he believed that was fine, as long as he did not set out to make a profit. Typically, the U.S. government pays the bulk of costs for hosting a summit, but foreign countries pay for their own rooms.
Grisham also said the government might set up a host committee for the event, which could raise private donations. In that case, it would give private donors a chance to pay the president’s company — saving taxpayers money, perhaps, but creating new questions about conflicts of interest.
Grisham referred questions about summit pricing and costs to the State Department, which did not provide any immediate explanation. The Trump Organization did not respond to questions about the event Friday.
On Thursday, the White House announced it would hold the 2020 summit at Doral, a resort near Miami International Airport that Trump bought in 2012. The resort is a keystone of Trump’s finances, but it has been in sharp decline recently: From 2015 to 2017, the resort’s net operating income fell 69 percent.
The summit is scheduled for June, which is typically one of the resort’s slowest months with less than 40 percent of rooms occupied, and will likely fill the hotel with hundreds of diplomats, journalists and security personnel.
Trump’s decision brought a flood of criticism Friday from Democrats, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), one of more than 200 Democrats who are suing Trump for past alleged violations of the foreign emoluments clause.
Blumenthal said they would add the Doral decision to their next legal filing, since it shows Trump is accelerating his efforts to gain foreign government business.
“Here he is, in plain sight, saying in effect, ‘I’m just going to make your case for you,’ ” Blumenthal said.
House Democrats also planned to introduce a resolution next week opposing Trump’s decision to hold the summit at Doral and “rejecting his practice of accepting foreign government Emoluments without obtaining Congress’ affirmative consent.”
The House Rules Committee was expected to vote Tuesday whether to send the resolution to the floor.
“The Oval Office is not a subsidiary of the Trump organization,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Rules Committee, said in a statement. “The president takes an oath to uphold the Constitution and serve the American people, not enrich himself. But time and time again, the president has demonstrated that the Constitution means nothing to him. This House is standing up to say enough is enough.”
Democrats in the House and Senate on Friday also introduced versions of a bill to prohibit funding the G-7 summit at Trump’s Doral resort, while requiring the White House to turn over documents related to the decision to choose Doral as the summit venue. The House version was called the Trump’s Heist Undermines the G-7 (THUG) Act.
There was a trickle of criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill.
“I don’t understand why at this moment they had to do that,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said on CNN, calling the move “unnecessary” and adding, “I wouldn’t do it.” Kinzinger said he had defended Trump on the controversy of allowing Department of Defense crews to stay at a Trump property in Scotland but said, “This is something that feels a little different.”
Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), said: “In the law, there’s a canon that says, ‘Avoid the appearance of impropriety.’ I think that that would be better if he would not use his hotel for this kind of stuff.”
In Brussels, where European leaders were gathered for meetings, European Council President Donald Tusk, an invitee to past G-7 summits, said it was not appropriate to spend public funds at Trump’s resort. “Not at all,” he said.
Tusk is expected to step down from his role next month, but for the past five years he has been a participant in the Group of Seven summit. His successor, current Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, will make the final decision about whether and how to participate in the summit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also asked by The Post at a news conference whether she was ready to spend German tax money on Trump’s private business, said, “This is a decision taken by the American president. I haven’t had time to deal with this yet. We will take a close look at his invitation, and my intention is to attend the summit.”
Already, Trump’s decision is the subject of questions in Germany, where the leader of a far-left opposition party asked Friday whether the money should be channeled to Trump’s business.
“Heads of state and government aren’t in favor of financing his business,” Left Party head Bernd Riexinger told Agence France-Presse.
“President Donald Trump is mixing private and state interests with his decision to place heads of state and government in one of his hotels,” he said. “This behavior is harmful for democracy.”
The budget for the 2013 summit in Northern Ireland — most of it paid for by Prime Minister David Cameron’s British government — was reportedly more than $100 million.
The 2018 summit, held at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu north of Quebec City in Canada, provided a tourist boost for the region, according to an official in the regional tourist authority.
Hotel occupancy for June 2018, the month of the summit, got a nearly 20 percent bump over the prior June, pushing the region to its first year of more than 50 percent hotel occupancy.
“I cannot guarantee it’s completely because of the summit, but it really helped because April to June are not the high season. Those months were definitely good,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.
“What we can say is that it’s been good for visibility for the region for sure,” the official said. “It’s been good for the tourism performance.”
The White House has said the Doral was clearly the best of the 12 possible sites it vetted for the event, but it has declined to name the other 11 sites. The one detail given about other sites was that one was so high-altitude that the planners thought they might have to provide oxygen tanks for participants.
“Out of an abundance of caution, that site was eliminated,” Grisham said.
The White House has not explained how Trump would estimate the cost of hosting visitors at a resort whose expenses include staff, administration, maintenance and debt payments. It also has not said whether any outsider could challenge Trump’s estimate: In this unprecedented transaction, Trump is effectively negotiating with himself, as both buyer and seller, with taxpayers picking up the bill.
David A. Fahrenthold is a reporter covering the Trump family and its business interests. He has been at The Washington Post since 2000, and previously covered Congress, the federal bureaucracy, the environment and the D.C. police.
Michael Birnbaum is The Washington Post’s Brussels bureau chief. He previously served as the bureau chief in Moscow and in Berlin, and joined The Post in 2008 as an education reporter.
Joshua Partlow is a reporter on the The Washington Post’s national desk. He has served previously as the bureau chief in Mexico City, Kabul, Rio de Janeiro, and as a correspondent in Baghdad.
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Re: Another new low for squalid president

Post by lennygoran » Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:34 am

I think there may be a vote on this Tues afternoon--all this might produce another impeachment article! Regards, Len

"But Raskin wants the House to vote this fall on a resolution he authored that disapproves of every foreign emolument Trump has received since taking office. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not committed to bringing Raskin’s resolution to the floor for a vote.

“The entire Democratic Caucus, including the Speaker, is opposed to the lawlessness of the president in taking foreign-government emoluments and not coming to Congress for our approval,” said Raskin, a member of Pelosi’s leadership team. “This is an untenable situation.” ... sort-pitch

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