Asked about it Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel flicked her eyebrows together for a moment — an expression she makes when faced with a question she is not delighted to answer — before she turned away from a Washington Post reporter and shuffled her notes.
“This is a decision taken by the American president,” she responded with a slight smile. “I haven’t had time to deal with this yet. We will take a close look at his invitation, and my intention is to attend the summit.”
Diplomats gathered for a European Union summit in Brussels privately confessed their misgivings about the Doral decision. But few leaders were willing to take aim publicly at a choice that is always the prerogative of the summit host nation.
Asked by The Post whether it was appropriate for the E.U. to spend public funds on a Trump business at the summit next year, European Council President Donald Tusk said, “Not at all.”
But Tusk is leaving his post by the end of the year, giving him more freedom to criticize the decisions of the U.S. president. Tusk’s successor, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, will sit in one of the E.U. chairs at the June summit.
Previous summits have been held in some of the world’s most exclusive locations: an Alpine castle in Germany, wind-swept palace in France. But holding it at a location that would financially benefit the U.S. president raises questions about the “emoluments” clause of the Constitution, preventing presidents from taking money from foreign governments. Countries will be forced to pay for the accommodations of their large delegation of aids, ministers and other hangers-on who accompany the leaders to this type of meeting — all channeled to Trump’s business.
The decision fed into a broader frustration with the United States during the two-day meeting in Brussels.
Trump has praised Brexit. He imposed tariffs that went into effect Friday on European aircraft, Spanish olive oil and French wine and Italian cheese, among other goods.
Creating perhaps the greatest consternation here, he abruptly pulled U.S. troops out of Syria — abandoning the Kurds, surprising European allies who have been partners there for years, and paving the way for a Turkish assault that Europeans fear will reinvigorate the Islamic State.
“I discovered by a tweet, like everybody, that the United States of America was withdrawing their troops and leaving the area,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at a news conference after the summit in Brussels.
“I believe what happened in the last few days is a grave mistake by the West and by NATO in the region. A grave mistake,” Macron said.
He said it was a lesson that Europe needed to be able to act more decisively and independently of the United States.
“We must rebuild a strategic autonomy and capability for Europe. We cannot longer be the secondary partners of others, even if they are our allies,” he said.
Quentin Aries contributed to this report.