Perhaps all he wanted to do was plug Doral and leave it at that? Nope. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announced at a Thursday news conference that the G-7 actually will be held at Doral, and he confirmed that the site was chosen at the president’s suggestion. This was not a jest: It was blatant and corrupt self-dealing by the president.
“We thought, of the 12 places that we looked at — and you’d recognize the names of them if we told what they were — that this was by far and away the best choice,” Mr. Mulvaney explained, without, in fact, revealing which other properties were considered. Each country can take its own building, he gushed.
This was not the first time Mr. Trump had recommended that the administration use one of his properties for official purposes — and that the property turned out to be ideal, according to Trump administration spin. Last month, Vice President Pence stayed at the president’s Doonbeg resort when he visited Ireland, which required Mr. Pence to fly across the country for meetings in Dublin. The excuse then was that a scrambled itinerary meant the vice president required last-minute accommodations, and, according to Mr. Pence’s chief of staff, Mr. Trump suggested Doonbeg. Miraculously — or is it inevitably? — the administration concluded that the president’s property fit the bill.
The Trump crew’s typical response to questions about self-dealing is to claim that the president will not profit from foreigners staying at this hotel or that resort. “They’re doing this at cost,” Mr. Mulvaney insisted. But selling out Doral at cost for a while might mark a welcome departure for the Trump Organization: The Post’s David Fahrenthold points out that between 2016 and 2017, revenue at Doral fell 13.8 percent and net operating income declined 62 percent. Just the publicity that Doral will get, not to mention the prestige the business will claim long after hosting a major international conference, is valuable.
Profit or its absence is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution’s emolument clause. Instead, it simply says the president may not, without the consent of Congress, accept compensation “of any kind whatever” from any “foreign state.” If a Doral summit does not violate this stricture, then nothing does. Meantime, the notion that the United States stands for clean government in the public interest — and its standing to combat graft in other countries — is shredded.
On Saturday — after this editorial had been published online and in early Sunday print editions — Mr. Trump tweeted that he had changed his mind. This was not because he realized he had blundered ethically, but due to what he called “Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility.” We hope that this is his final answer on this question — and that Congress takes this opportunity to look more critically at Mr. Trump’s intermingling of personal and official business.