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Trump floats his own club as potential location for next G7

President Trump stepped into another controversy of his own making Monday by suggesting the U.S. could host world leaders at his golf resort outside Miami for next year's Group of Seven (G-7) summit.

If Trump were to make his resort the meeting venue, his critics argue it would be another clear violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits presidents from accepting payments from foreign countries, U.S. states or the federal government.

“This is a president who has converted the presidency into an instrument of enrichment from day one. There is simply no line between what is official government business and what is a private money-making enterprise — it is all one big venture,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a House Judiciary Committee member and former constitutional law professor, said Monday.

“If he decides to hold the G-7 meeting in 2020 at Trump National Doral Golf [Club], this would be a perfect violation of the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses,” Raskin added. “This is precisely what the framers of the Constitution opposed.”

Other legal experts and Democrats also raised objections.

Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor, tweeted that Trump’s pitch was “Emolumentally clear! Trump keeps proving that he is deliberately violating the Constitution’s main safeguard against financial corruption and compromise of presidential decisions by foreign powers.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a former state attorney general, called it a “textbook example of putting personal profit over public good.”

And Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said Trump holding the G-7 summit at his resort in Doral, Fla., “would be one of the most egregious examples of corruption and self-dealing in a presidency replete with them.”

“Trump is using the office to line his own pockets at the expense of the American people and our standing in the world,” Wyden said in a statement. “Requiring our allies to spend money at the president’s hotel to attend the G7 would be an insult to them and a violation of our Constitution’s emoluments clause.”

Wyden called on the Treasury Department, which helps organize the annual gathering of global leaders, to block the summit from being held at Doral.

Trump kicked off the emoluments flap during a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the final day of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, telling reporters that administration officials "haven't found anything that's even close to competing with" his Doral resort.

He later defended the suggestion, saying that the presidency has cost him $3 billion to $5 billion in lost revenue — a figure that could not be verified.

Trump said he "couldn't care less" about making money.

"The only thing I care about is this country," he added.

Trump’s proposal to hold the annual event at his 800-acre resort marked the latest skirmish in a long-running political and legal battle between the president and congressional Democrats over whether Trump can conduct official business or have foreign governments spend money at his hotels and golf resorts.

He’s come under fire from Democrats for hosting leaders, including President Xi Jinping of China, at his other Florida property, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. And he has been fending off multiple lawsuits alleging he is illegally making money from his luxury hotel just blocks from the White House.

Trump International Hotel in Washington has received tens of thousands of dollars from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other foreign governments, which have reserved blocks of hotel rooms. The hotel, along Pennsylvania Avenue, also has become a popular venue for GOP fundraisers.

But so far, Democratic efforts to penalize or stop Trump have largely failed. A federal appeals court last month tossed out a lawsuit by attorneys general for Maryland and D.C. challenging Trump’s ownership of the hotel; the court ruled that the attorneys general don’t have standing to bring the case.

A separate suit against Trump by House Democrats is working its way through the courts. 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.”

House Democrats have tried other approaches to block Trump. They passed multiple annual spending bills with amendments tacked on to prohibit certain federal agencies from using taxpayer dollars at Trump businesses around the world.

But the authors of the amendments, Raskin and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), are unlikely to get their proposals through the GOP-controlled Senate. House GOP lawmakers opposed to the amendments argue that prohibiting spending at Trump businesses could jeopardize security for officials or dignitaries who attend summits at Trump properties.

Despite the Democratic outrage, there are some observers who believe the site of the 2020 G-7 meeting — in the heat of a presidential campaign — won’t be at the Doral resort.

“I would not bet my house that it’s going to be at that country club,” said Jon B. Alterman, the Zbigniew Brzezinski chair in Global Security and Geostrategy and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank. “I could see a combination of congressional concern and public criticism leading to a more open process that leads to a different outcome.”

"I would bet that when all the dust clears, people will say that’s just too close," he added.


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