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Trump encouraged Pence to stay at his golf resort in Ireland

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and his partner, Matthew Barrett, pose for a photograph with Vice President Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, in Farmleigh House in Dublin on Sept. 3.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and his partner, Matthew Barrett, pose for a photograph with Vice President Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, in Farmleigh House in Dublin on Sept. 3. (Charles Mcquillan/AFP/Getty Images)

DOONBEG, Ireland — Vice President Pence arrived Monday in Ireland with an unusual itinerary: He would attend meetings with Irish leaders in Dublin during the day Tuesday — but spend two nights on the opposite side of the country, at a golf club owned by President Trump.

Pence spent both Monday and Tuesday nights at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg, in a small town on Ireland’s southwest coast, returning to the village after meetings with Ireland’s top elected officials.

Pence defended that decision — which required him to fly to Dublin and back on Air Force Two — by saying that he wanted to visit Doonbeg so that he could have dinner with his family at Morrissey’s, a pub here owned by a distant cousin.

Pence had visited the same relative in 2013, before Trump was president. In Doonbeg, Pence said, Trump’s hotel was the only one that made sense. Pence’s staff said the future vice president stayed at the Doonbeg resort on that visit, too, months before Trump bought it.

As a candidate, Donald Trump said he wouldn’t worry about the profitability of his companies as president. Now he claims the presidency is costing him billions. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

“If you have a chance to get to Doonbeg, you’ll find it’s a fairly small place, and the opportunity to stay at the Trump National in Doonbeg, to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel, made it logical,” Pence said at a news conference Tuesday outside the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Dublin.

For Pence, the choice to stay in Doonbeg meant about four hours in transit. On Tuesday, he spent one hour in a motorcade from the golf resort to Shannon Airport, then another hour or so on the 140-mile flight to Dublin, then took another motorcade to his meetings. Then he did it all over again, in reverse, that evening.

For Trump, however, that itinerary meant more revenue, as U.S. taxpayers paid for rooms for Pence and his traveling party.

Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said that Trump himself had suggested that Pence stay at the Trump hotel, after hearing about Pence’s trip.

“It’s like when we went through the trip, it’s like, ‘Well, he’s going to Doonbeg because that’s where the Pence family is from,’ ” Short said Tuesday. “It’s like, ‘Well, you should stay at my place.’ ”

“It wasn’t like a, ‘You must.’ It wasn’t like, ‘You have to,’ ” Short said. The vice president’s office later sought to more firmly state that “At no time did the President direct our office to stay at his Doonbeg resort and any reporting to the contrary is false.”

Short said that the government had negotiated room rates with Trump’s hotel. The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to questions about Pence’s stay that were sent Tuesday afternoon.

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Trump himself visited the Doonbeg golf course earlier this year, during a trip to Europe to commemorate the anniversary of the D-Day landings. Trump skipped Dublin altogether and instead met with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at an airport close to Doonbeg.

That means twice in one year, American leaders have visited a quiet village in County Clare and stayed at a once-obscure golf resort that Irish business filings show has not turned a profit in years.

Trump bought the Doonbeg course out of foreclosure in 2014, paying $11.9 million. The course then reported losing more than $1 million every year from 2014 to 2017, according to Irish corporate records.

In 2018, the course’s revenue rose slightly — up about 2 percent from $14.2 million to $14.5 million, according to Trump’s latest U.S. financial disclosures.

But those disclosures do not show whether the course turned a profit, and the Irish records that would show profit or loss are not yet available.

Democrats have seized on Pence’s stay to suggest that Trump is seeking to enrich himself from government business.

A tweet Monday from the Democratic National Committee noted that Trump was playing golf at one of his properties in Virginia at the same time Pence was staying at a Trump property in Ireland.

“Your tax dollars: making the Trump family richer,” the tweet said.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) also weighed in with a tweet directed at Pence.

“You took an oath to the Constitution, not to @realDonaldTrump,” Lieu wrote. “Funneling taxpayer money to @POTUS by staying at this Trump resort is sooooooo corrupt.”

The Constitution bars presidents from taking “any other Emolument from the United States” beyond the presidential salary. Trump’s critics have charged that he is violating that provision when his hotels take payments from the federal government. Trump says there is no violation if the government is only paying him for services rendered.

Conservative commentator Bill Kristol, a frequent Trump critic, also faulted the arrangement, suggesting Pence was trying to curry favor with Trump so that he would remain on the Republican ticket next year.

“How worried must Pence be about being dumped from the ticket to go these lengths to spend . . . taxpayer dollars at a Trump resort?” Kristol wrote.

Pence’s visit to Ireland was planned for later this month. It was rescheduled after Trump decided to skip a ceremony in Poland to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II, citing the need to monitor Hurricane Dorian. Pence took his place, and moved up the Ireland trip so he could go on the way to Poland.

With the trip suddenly moved up, aides said it was too difficult to find a secure location elsewhere in Ireland on short notice. So Pence went to Doonbeg for two nights.

“We took the Ireland component that was at the back end of the trip and moved it to the front, because it had already been secured by Secret Service. They had done all the advance work. And the facility, we knew, was safe and protected.”

In fact, Trump’s earlier taxpayer-funded visit paved the way for Pence’s: Short said the White House was already familiar with the property.

“Keep in mind, the Secret Service has protected that facility for him, too, so they sort of know the realities, they know the logistics around that facility,” Short said.

Short said he thinks this is the first time Pence has stayed at a Trump property. But his political action committee has spent money at a Trump property before: In January of this year, Pence’s Great America Committee spent about $87,000 to hold a “MAGA Leadership Summit Dinner” at Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C.

In 2013, Pence and his family traveled to Doonbeg, where Hugh McNally, a distant cousin of the vice president, runs Morrissey’s pub.

Pence returned to Morrissey’s, also known as Morrissey’s Bar & Restaurant, Tuesday evening after returning from Dublin. McNally greeted Pence and his family as a crowd gathered and cheered his arrival.

Trump’s sons, Don Jr. and Eric, visited the pub in early June. It is a short drive from the Trump property.

The last vice president to visit Dublin was Joe Biden, in 2016: He stayed at the U.S. ambassador’s residence, according to news coverage.

Fahrenthold and Wagner reported from Washington.