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10.21.2019 0

Presidents including FDR, Reagan, Bush and Trump have routinely hosted summits at their private properties

By Robert Romano

Well, so much for that.

On Oct. 17, White House Chief of Staff and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney announced that the U.S. will be hosting the G7 in 2020 at the Trump Doral Resort in Miami, Fla.—and President Donald Trump’s opponents in the White House press corps were apoplectic, with largely fallacious accusations of enriching himself or the Trump brand from his businesses.

But by Oct. 19, President Trump had cancelled the idea, writing on Twitter, “I thought I was doing something very good for our Country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 Leaders. It is big, grand, on hundreds of acres, next to MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, has tremendous ballrooms & meeting rooms, and each delegation would have… its own 50 to 70 unit building. Would set up better than other alternatives. I announced that I would be willing to do it at NO PROFIT or, if legally permissible, at ZERO COST to the USA. But, as usual, the Hostile Media & their Democrat Partners went CRAZY!”

Trump added, “Therefore, based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020. We will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately. Thank you!”

But it might not have been such a big deal in the first place.

As Mulvaney had initially explained about the choice of Doral, “First of all, we use a lot of the same criteria that have been used by past administrations.  There’s a long list of the accommodations on site: the ballrooms, bilateral rooms, the number of rooms, the photo ops, the support hotels that are there, the proximity to cities and airports, helicopter landing zones, medical facilities, et cetera. So we use the same set of criteria that previous administrations have used.  We started with a list of about a dozen, just on paper.  And we sent an advance team out to actually visit 10 locations in several states.  We visited California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.  Now, we got that list down to just under 10, and the advance team went out to visit those.”

Mulvaney continued, “And from there, we got down to four finalists that our senior team went out to look at.  They looked at — I think it was one in Hawaii, two in Utah, and then the Mar-a-Lago facility in Florida. And it became apparent at the end of that process that Doral was, by far and away — far and away — the best physical facility for this meeting.  In fact, I was talking to one of the advance teams when they came back, and I said, ‘What was it like?’  And they said, ‘Mick, you’re not going to believe this, but it’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.’  If any of you have been there, you know that there’s separate buildings with their own rooms, separate and apart from each building, so that one country can have a building, another country can have another, you folks could have your building for the press.  And obviously, the common areas are going to be perfect for our needs down there.”

Preemptively addressing criticism of the choice of a Trump property to host the summit, Mulvaney stated, “Again, anticipating your questions: How is this not an emoluments violation?  Is the President going to profit from this?  I think the President has pretty much made it very clear since he’s got here that he doesn’t profit from being here.  He has no interest in profit from being here.  It’s one of the reasons that he’s not taken a salary since he’s been here.  He’s given that salary to charity.  Will not be profiting here. We had talked about the possibility of whether or not the President could actually do it at no cost, to understand there’s difficulties with doing it that way.  But we’ll also have difficulties, obviously, if they charge market rates.  So they’re doing this at cost.  As a result, it’s actually going to be dramatically cheaper for us to do it at Doral compared to other final sites that we had.”

How much cheaper? Per Mulvaney, “I don’t have the numbers in terms of the cost.  I do know that it was — it was — one of the ones I saw was it was almost half as much here.  I don’t want to butcher the numbers, but it was millions of dollars cheaper by doing it at Doral than it was at another facility.  And that was roughly 50 percent savings.”


So, there you have it. The choice of Doral might have saved taxpayers a boat load of money, but that didn’t matter. To Trump’s detractors, it was the crime of the century. But the truth is there is a lot of precedent for presidents to host foreign leaders at their own private properties. Here’s a few:

In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt hosted King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Hyde Park, where they stayed the night, and had hot dogs and beer at a picnic. It helped cement U.S.-British relations headed into World War II.

In 1983, Ronald Reagan had Queen Elizabeth II at his ranch in 1983 while he was President. And later after his presidency, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came for a visit.

George W. Bush routinely hosted foreign leaders at Prairie Chapel Ranch during his presidency: Russian President Vladimir Putin in Nov. 2001, British Prime Minister Tony Blair in April 2002, Saudi King Abdullah in April 2002 and April 2005, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan in August 2002, Chinese President Jiāng Zémín in October 2002, Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar in Feb. 2003, Australian Prime Minister John Howard in May 2003, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichirō in May 2003, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in July 2003, Mexican President Vicente Fox in March 2004 and March 2005, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in April 2004, Spanish King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía in November 2004, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin in March 2005, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in April 2005, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe in Aug. 2005, German Chancellor Angela Merkel in November 2007 and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Feb. 2008.

Trump himself has hosted Chinese President Xi Zinping at Mar-a-Lago in 2017, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited there in 2017 and 2018.

So what if six leaders show up at a Trump-owned property instead of one at a time? Nobody batted an eye over the costs to taxpayers at hosting head-of-state level summits in the past. No Emoluments Clause nonsense. If anything, these seem to be Article II foreign affairs powers being exercised by this President and past presidents with a personal touch and help improve relationships with countries abroad.

Now, one might make a distinction between a commercial property and a residential property, but to Trump there is no difference, since he keeps residences at his commercial properties as well. I do think the American people are accustomed to seeing presidents host foreign leaders on their own properties. If there’s a norm, and I think there is, FDR, Reagan and Bush set it.

If the event had been done at or below cost, and saved taxpayers money, the idea that there would’ve been a profit derived from hosting foreign leaders on private property was fallacious. Where was the per se wrongdoing? We’re governed by laws, not feelings.

In the meantime, even if Doral is out as a location for the G7 summit, perhaps the President should still consider, like FDR, serving hot dogs and beer.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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