Accepting Vice President Pence’s explanation for why he chose to stay at a Trump Organization property in Ireland instead of a venue closer to his meetings in the country’s capital of Dublin requires some generosity on the part of the observer.
Ireland’s not a big country geographically, but it’s nonetheless the case that there aren’t many places farther from Dublin than the small town of Doonbeg. After originally indicating that President Trump had suggested that his vice president stay at the Trump Organization golf course there — a stay that would have the happy coincidence of slipping some money into the president’s pocket — the vice president’s team later insisted that it was a function of logistics to accommodate meetings on both the country’s western (Doonbeg) and eastern (Dublin) coasts.
According to Pence’s schedule, the only official meeting in the Doonbeg area was a meeting at the airport in Shannon with Ireland’s minister of foreign affairs and trade. There was also a planned visit to a pub near the Trump resort owned by a distant cousin. The rest of Pence’s meetings were in Dublin. Instead of staying in Dublin and heading to Doonbeg one evening to visit the pub, Pence went the other direction.
Update: After this article published, a representative for the vice president noted that Pence had also briefly met with customs officials at the Shannon airport.
Perhaps this was indeed a logistical decision made after Hurricane Dorian upended Pence’s plans and not something related to Trump. But it’s hard to believe that Trump’s views weren’t a consideration, given how commonly Trump properties have been used by government agencies and political groups since he took office.
Oh, and given that Pence’s team at one point admitted that Trump had made the suggestion.
We learned last month of another egregious example of a Trump ally selecting a Trump Organization property to benefit from the government’s generosity. Attorney General William P. Barr selected Trump’s hotel in Washington as the site of a family holiday party in December — possibly benefiting Trump’s private company to the tune of more than $30,000. While Pence’s staff told reporters that he was paying his family’s costs for staying at the Trump property in Ireland, The Post has documented a number of other examples where Trump visits to Trump Organization properties has resulted in spending from other government agencies at the same property during the visit.
Data on government spending at Trump properties is limited, as it generally involves submitting Freedom of Information Act requests for data. That said, groups such as ProPublica have compiled existing data focused on the beginning of 2017 to determine where and when government agencies and political action committees have spent money at Trump properties.
On nearly 500 days of Trump’s 958-days-old presidency, political action committees or government agencies including the departments of Defense and State have spent money at Trump Organization properties.
You can see on the chart above how limited spending data for government agencies is. It’s safe to assume that spending at Trump properties didn’t stop after June 2017. CNN has reported that Defense spent about $173,000 at Trump properties from October 2017 to November 2018, spending not indicated on the graph above.
The constant political spending is also important. Before Trump’s clinching the Republican Party’s nomination in May 2016, political groups not directly derived from Trump’s campaign had spent only about $2,300 at Trump properties in the 2016 spending cycle. By Election Day, that surged to $33,000. In the 2018 cycle, according to ProPublica data, the number jumped to $2.75 million.
What’s missing from the chart above are Trump’s own visits to his company’s properties (and, on one occasion, a property in Hawaii that licenses his name). We’ve compiled this data before; Trump has visited his own properties at a rate of more than twice a week since becoming president.
If we combine those visits with the documented visits/spending in the first chart, the attention lavished on the Trump Organization is more obvious. On 682 of Trump’s 958 days in office, Trump, a government agency or official or a political action committee has visited or spent money at a Trump property.
That’s more than seven out of every 10 days, or about five days out of every week.
Again, maybe Pence’s decision to stay at the Trump Organization property was a purely logistical one. And perhaps the dozens of other times government officials have chosen to spend money at Trump properties were simple economic calculations. Perhaps Barr couldn’t find another venue that met his family’s needs for its holiday party. Perhaps the dozens of political groups spending money at Trump properties simply appreciate the available amenities in a way they didn’t before Trump becoming the Republican nominee for president.
Or perhaps there’s another motivation.
A previous version of this report inaccurately said that Attorney General William P. Barr is planning to hold a Justice Department party at the Trump hotel in Washington. The party is for Barr’s family.