President Trump has decided to host the Group of 7 meeting next June at the Trump National Doral resort near Miami, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, announced Thursday, a decision that immediately raised questions about whether it was a conflict of interest for him to choose one of his own properties for a diplomatic event.
Mr. Mulvaney said the president had considered the possibility of "political criticism" for picking the resort. But Mr. Trump chose it anyway because administration officials had considered hotels throughout the country, and concluded that it was "by far and away, far and away, the best physical facility for this meeting," Mr. Mulvaney said.
"'It's almost like they built this facility to host this type of event,'" Mr. Mulvaney told reporters, quoting what he said an unnamed official told him during the planning process. And he dismissed any suggestion that the president would profit from the choice.
Mr. Mulvaney said the hotel would put on the summit "at cost," dismissing questions about whether Mr. Trump would profit from the choice. "The president has made it clear since he's been here that he hasn't profited since he's been here," he said.
But Representative Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat who leads the House Judiciary Committee, said that in hosting a summit for hundreds of world leaders and their staffs, the White House had potentially violated the emoluments clauses of the Constitution, which prohibit gifts or payments from foreign government sources.
"The administration's announcement that President Trump's Doral Miami resort will be the site of the next G7 summit is among the most brazen examples yet of the president's corruption," Mr. Nadler said. "He is exploiting his office and making official U.S. government decisions for his personal financial gain. The emoluments clauses of the Constitution exist to prevent exactly this kind of corruption."
Holding the event at the Doral would effectively be forcing foreign government officials to pay the Trump family to stay at his resort, said Deepak Gupta, a constitutional lawyer who is already involved in two lawsuits claiming that Mr. Trump is violating the Constitution by accepting foreign government payments at his hotels.
"This is indefensible," Mr. Gupta said. "It is as blatant of a mixing of private interests and official action that we have seen from this president."
Mr. Mulvaney's announcement was hardly a surprise; the president had not made it a secret that he wanted to hold the summit at his hotel. At the Group of 7 summit this year, held in Biarritz in the south of France in August, Mr. Trump suggested the resort would be a "great place" to hold next year's meeting.
"It's got tremendous acreage, many hundreds of acres, so we can handle whatever happens," Mr. Trump said. "People are really liking it, and plus it has buildings that have 50 to 70 units. And so each delegation can have its own building."
In the past Mr. Trump has been an aggressive promoter of the hotel. When the PGA Tour announced in 2016, while Mr. Trump was running for president, that it was moving its annual golf tournament — which had brought international attention to the resort for over five decades — to Mexico City, he reacted angrily.
"They're moving it to Mexico City which, by the way, I hope they have kidnapping insurance," Mr. Trump said at the time, in an interview on Fox.
But the resort has struggled financially since the Trump family bought it out of bankruptcy in 2012, reportedly paying $150 million for the property. More than $100 million in loans to help finance the project came from Deutsche Bank.
Financial documents obtained by The New York Times as part of tax appeals filed by the Trump Organisation showed that the property lost $2.4 million in 2014. The Trump Organisation has not disclosed profits in the past several years.
Still, the resort as of last year was the single biggest moneymaking asset, among the hotels, golf courses, office buildings and other properties owned by the Trump family. It generated $75.96 million in income in 2018, up from $74.76 million in 2017. But both of those figures are overall revenue, not profits.
Since he was elected, Mr. Trump has made a habit of visiting his own resorts and hotels, with a total of 308 days since 2017 spent at one of his properties, or about a third of his days in office.
His most frequently visited spot is his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, followed by Trump National Golf Clubs in New Jersey and Virginia. Another frequent venue has been the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which has become a magnet for Republican political events and other conferences hosted by Trump supporters.
Overall, Mr. Trump has made visits to at least 13 of his family's revenue-generating properties since he was sworn in, including golf courses in Ireland and Scotland, according to a tally by The Times.
Previous use of Mr. Trump's properties by the president and other federal government employees has drawn controversy, including the decision by the Air Force to send dozens of flight crews making stopovers at an airport in Scotland to the Trump Turnberry resort, where the Pentagon alone has spent $184,000 in the past two years.
The Group of 7 meeting will be held in the middle of June, the off-season for South Florida when the weather is hot and humid, and hosting a summit at the Doral will be complicated, local officials said, given the proximity of the resort to major area roads, including two right next to the resort that may need to be closed to ensure security.
"It is the middle of the metro area of Dade County," said Rey Valdes, a Doral Police Department spokesman. "This will require a logistical feat. But with careful planning, I am confident we will be able to pull it off."
Juan Carlos Bermudez, the mayor of Doral, did not have advance notification from the White House that the city had been picked for the Group of 7 summit. Mr. Bermudez said Thursday that he would leave questions surrounding potential conflicts of interest for the "Democrats and Republicans and pundits" to discuss.
"We are honored that it is being held here," Mr. Bermudez said. "And the world will be able to see what Doral and South Florida are about."
Written by: Katie Rogers and Eric Lipton
© 2019 THE NEW YORK TIMES