President Trump on Wednesday denied ever telling Vice President Pence or Attorney General William P. Barr to use his family-owned properties, but defended them for choosing “the best.”
The president was responding to questions about Pence’s decision to stay at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland, while meeting with Irish leaders in Dublin this week, a more than 140-mile commute.
“I had no involvement, other than it’s a great place,” Trump said. “It wasn’t my idea for Mike to go there.”
On Tuesday, Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, said it was Trump who suggested Pence stay at his hotel after he heard that Pence planned to visit family in Doonbeg.
“I don’t suggest anything, nor did I speak to the attorney general about using my hotel,” Trump said, referring to Barr’s plans to host a holiday party at the Trump International Hotel, which is blocks from the White House. “I have a lot of hotels all over the place, and people, they use them because they’re the best.”
By choosing to take his business to a Trump property — even if not directly instructed to by Trump — Pence is putting taxpayer dollars into Trump’s private business coffers.
While Barr is paying for his party himself, critics have panned as unethical the nation’s leading law enforcement official spending $30,000 at a venue owned by the president.
Since the beginning of his presidency, Trump has blurred the lines between his role as president and his private life as a business executive. And while he has technically handed over operation of the family business to his sons, he still benefits financially from its revenue.
Democrats have accused Trump of potentially running afoul of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which says a president can’t take payments from a foreign government. Several international delegations have stayed at Trump’s hotel while visiting Washington. Trump has recently suggested global leaders and their staff stay at his Doral, Fla., resort next year when the United States hosts the annual Group of Seven meeting.
“People like my product, what can I tell you, can’t help it,” Trump said on Wednesday. “Guess they say they want to stay at a place that is better than someplace else.”