Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that President Trump underestimated the amount of backlash his decision to hold the next Group of Seven summit at one of his Miami golf resorts would trigger.
“He was honestly surprised at the level of pushback,” Mr. Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “At the end of the day, he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business.”
Mr. Mulvaney had defiantly defended the administration at a Thursday press conference, calling Mr. Trump’s Doral Miami resort “far and away” the best place to host world leaders, despite knowing the administration would face accusations that the president was using the summit for personal profit.
“Face it: He’d be criticized regardless of what he chose to do. But, no, there’s no issue here on him profiting from this in any way, shape, or form,” Mr. Mulvaney said then.
However, Mr. Trump walked back that decision via tweet late Saturday night, blaming “both Media and Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility.”
Mr. Mulvaney said Sunday that “It’s not lost on me that if we made the decision on Thursday, we wouldn’t have had the press conference on Thursday regarding everything else. But that’s fine.”
Thursday’s press conference also helped fan the flames of the ongoing impeachment inquiry, with Mr. Mulvaney admitting — and then later walking back — that part of the reason the administration held up nearly $400 million of military aid to Ukraine was linked to an investigation into 2016 election interference from the eastern European country.
The Doral decision prompted immediate concerns surrounding the emoluments clause, which prohibits the president from receiving any type of compensation from foreign leaders.
Mr. Trump has maintained ownership of his business empire after becoming president, though he has turned over day-to-day operations to his children.
Investigations by press outlets have found foreign governments have poured money into his properties since he took office. Those sorts of moves had spawned lawsuits arguing the payments were constitutionally prohibited profits from holding the presidency.
Some of Mr. Trump’s Republican allies said it was difficult to defend the Doral decision and came at a politically sensitive time for the president, who is fending off an impeachment inquiry and widespread criticism over his decision to pull troops from the Turkish-Syrian border.
A few Republicans did go out on a limb for the president. Both of Florida’s senators, Republicans Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, said it would be good for their state’s economy, only to see Mr. Trump walk back the idea.
Mr. Trump said he planned to host the G-7 “at cost,” though his resort would have gotten exposure — a free ad, essentially — from hosting foreign powers at his business.
“I think he knows people think it looks lousy,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “Could we have put on an excellent G-7 at Doral? Absolutely. Will we end up putting on an excellent G-7 somewhere else? Yes we will.”
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