Mike Pence on Tuesday defended his two-night stay at a Trump golf resort in the Irish village of Doonbeg, where the vice president has some family ties, as a “logical” move that allowed him to showcase the bond between the U.S. and Ireland.
Mr. Pence spoke up after Democrats said it was unseemly and nonsensical for the vice president to wake up at President Trump’s property on the western Irish coast and fly 180 miles to meetings in Dublin, only to return to Doonbeg for dinner at a pub owned by a distant Pence cousin.
The vice president defended his stay while Mr. Trump’s empire of family-branded properties in the U.S. and overseas was back in the news. Questions have been raised about the attorney general’s decision to hold his Christmas party at a Trump property in the District of Columbia and the president’s suggestion that he might steer next year’s summit of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations to one of his Florida resorts.
Mr. Pence, visiting Ireland after filling in for Mr. Trump on a trip to Poland, defended Mr. Trump’s suggestion that he stay at the president’s Doonbeg hotel, which, like the other properties, bears Mr. Trump’s name.
“I understand political attacks by Democrats, but 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,” Mr. Pence told reporters. “We checked it with the State Department. They approved us staying there.”
While in Dublin, the vice president urged Irish officials to work constructively with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on preserving an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if the United Kingdom pulls out of the European Union.
Mr. Pence said he was happy to shore up economic and diplomatic ties, but to “have an opportunity to connect to the roots of my family, I think, supports the relationship between the United States and Ireland.”
The vice president traces his Irish roots to his grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, who grew up in a part of County Clare, near Doonbeg, before immigrating to the U.S.
“If you think about the bonds that exist between the Irish people and the American people, they have much to do with shared heritage, they have much to do with family,” Mr. Pence said.
Democrats complained that Mr. Pence’s trip meant taxpayers’ money was going straight into the president’s pocket. While Mr. Pence’s family paid for his mother and sister, who accompanied him, the vice president’s travel was official business.
“You took an oath to the Constitution, not to @realDonaldTrump. Funneling taxpayer money to @POTUS by staying at this Trump resort is sooooooo corrupt,” Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat, said in a post on Twitter.
The vice president’s decision drew even more scrutiny because of a renewed focus on Mr. Trump business empire.
Some ethics watchdogs worried about signals being sent after The Washington Post reported that Attorney General William P. Barr booked a family Christmas party at Mr. Trump’s D.C. hotel.
Democrats announced they will investigate after Mr. Trump suggested holding the next G-7 summit at his Florida club, Trump National Doral Miami.
The courts are mulling Democrat-driven lawsuits that examine whether Mr. Trump is flouting the Constitution’s emoluments clause, designed to bar presidents from accepting foreign gifts.
The president spent two days over the holiday weekend golfing at one of his clubs in Virginia as Hurricane Dorian bore down on Florida. Mr. Trump had canceled his trip to Poland to monitor the storm.
That drew mockery from as far as London. The city’s mayor, a frequent Trump critic, said the president was “dealing with a hurricane out on the golf course.”
Mr. Trump told the mayor to “stay out of our business.”
“The incompetent Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was bothered that I played a very fast round of golf yesterday,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Mr. Trump refused to give up ownership of his business empire when he became president, though he said he had turned over day-to-day operations to his sons. But his personal focus on his properties continues to rankle critics.
He insists he is losing money as president because he can’t explore more blockbuster deals. Democrats counter that he has opened himself up to influence peddling through foreign governments or American interests spending money at his properties.
Mr. Trump says his properties are a bargain for taxpayers.
Many politicians “exercise for hours, or travel for weeks,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Me, I run through one of my courses (very inexpensive). President Obama would fly to Hawaii.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Pence defended his genealogical jaunt through Doonbeg by blaming last-minute changes to his schedule so he could fill in for Mr. Trump in Poland.
Staff members said they didn’t have time to vet overnight properties closer to Dublin because of the scheduling shake-up, and the Secret Service had faith in the Trump property because the president stayed there a couple of months ago.
“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,” said Pence Chief of Staff Marc Short.
Mr. Short said the president did not order Mr. Pence to stay at his property.
“I don’t think it was a request, like a command,” he told reporters. “I think that it was a suggestion. … It’s like, ‘Well, you should stay at my place.’ “
Later Tuesday, Mr. Pence’s office released a statement taking full responsibility for the hotel choice, saying it “was solely a decision by the Office of the Vice President and was based on the requirement to find accommodations near the vice president’s ancestral hometown that could satisfy official meetings on both coasts of the Emerald Isle.”
It said Mr. Pence stayed at the property in 2013, prior to Mr. Trump’s acquisition, and reiterated that last-minute scheduling changes caused him to stay at Doonbeg for two nights instead of one.
“At no time did the president direct our office to stay at his Doonbeg resort and any reporting to the contrary is false,” the office said.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.
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