As Post reporters Toluse Olorunnipa,David Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell note, “That decision is without precedent in modern American history: The president used his public office to direct a massive contract to himself.”
Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney came before reporters Thursday and said — remarkably, with a straight face — that Trump’s resort was chosen solely because it is “the best physical facility for this meeting.” It’s pure coincidence that it just happens to be owned by Trump.
What’s more, when Mulvaney was asked if the White House would share documents illuminating the decision, he said no: “If you want to see our paper on how we did this, the answer is absolutely not."
Trump’s blithe flaunting of this corruption, in the midst of a deepening impeachment inquiry — along with Mulvaney’s middle finger to basic accountability — may help build the case for his ultimate impeachment.
How Democrats can respond
In an interview, Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Oversight and Judiciary committees, laid out a process by which Democrats might bear down harder on this latest corrupt misconduct.
Raskin told us he’s been discussing with other Democrats the prospect of holding a House vote on a resolution disapproving of Trump’s decision on Doral, as well as of his continued violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses via his acceptance of untold sums from foreign officials and governments, and the U.S. government.
As Raskin noted, if the House passes such a resolution, and Trump continues down this course — as he will surely do — the House would have made its opposition crystal clear. The emoluments clause permits presidents to accept such emoluments only if Congress approves them, and here the direct opposite would have happened.
At that point, Raskin argued, Democrats would have strong grounds to consider making this latest corruption — and the broader emoluments violations — part of their ongoing impeachment inquiry and potentially grounds for an appropriate article of impeachment as well.
Raskin pointed out that the G-7 corruption and the ongoing Ukraine scandal — in which Trump is pressuring a foreign government to help him rig the next U.S. election on his behalf — have a connecting thread.
“The president’s conversion of his public office into an instrument of private profit and political reelection is the cardinal sin of his presidency,” Raskin told us. “The government is not the president’s private property. The emoluments clauses are essential to framing the high crimes and misdemeanors of the president.”
“It’s hard for me to imagine a comprehensive impeachment resolution that does not refer to the president’s repeated and continuing violations,” Raskin continued. “The get-rich-quick scheme that the president has cooked up with the G-7 and Doral has the kind of alarming public clarity that the Ukraine shakedown does. The president is essentially writing his own impeachment articles.”
Raskin pointed out that the House should first “explicitly disapprove” of Trump’s conduct, to lay the groundwork for this process, because if not, “our silence could be falsely construed as consent.” He added that Trump’s serial violations are so unprecedented that the process for responding is necessarily still evolving.
Trump has apparently operated on the theory that the more blatant his self-dealing is, the less likely he will be held accountable for it. Some examples:
- The Trump International Hotel in Washington has become a magnet for people wanting to make a show of putting money in the president’s pocket; in once case, T-Mobile spent nearly $200,000 there while awaiting approval of a merger.
- Trump “encouraged” Vice President Pence to stay with his entourage at his golf course in Ireland, even though it was some distance from where Pence was holding meetings.
- The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington recently reported: “One-hundred eleven officials from 65 foreign governments, including 57 foreign countries, have made 137 visits to a Trump property, raising the question of how much foreign money has been spent at Trump’s properties.”
- According to NBC News, Trump visited one of his own properties on 310 of his 1,000 days in office. His large detail of aides and security runs up significant bills. He even charges the Secret Service for the use of golf carts ($500,000 so far).
Some of this is legally questionable; all of it is unethical, and the G-7 caper may be the most unethical action yet.
And while Trump waxes about how spectacular and convenient Doral is, G-7 summits are usually held in more isolated locations where establishing security for a collection of many of the world’s most important leaders is less of a challenge.
Doral, furthermore, has been described as run-down; the resort’s revenues are down, and a G-7 meeting could be just the ticket to give it publicity.
But all the money Trump ends up reaping from this scheme may help lead to his impeachment. Surely he views the trade-off as well worth it.