- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2019

President Trump said Monday the U.S. squandered its chance to host the “greatest G7 ever” at his Florida resort and that even George Washington ran the country and his business at the same time, signaling he feels cheated by the presidency’s constraints despite having vowed to isolate himself from his sprawling portfolio.

Speaking to his Cabinet, Mr. Trump defended himself against claims of self-dealing after public and political pressure forced him to backtrack on plans to host world leaders at Trump National Doral Miami in June.

The president scrapped the idea Saturday but isn’t going down without a fight, insisting his property is a jewel and that he’s tried to avoid impropriety — he isn’t taking a salary and offered Doral at no profit — despite blowback to his unprecedented decision to award a public contract to himself.

“We’ll look at other locations,” he said. “I don’t think it will be as good.”

Mr. Trump also chafed at those who said he risked flouting the Constitution’s ban on “emoluments,” or profits from the presidency.

“George Washington they say had two desks. He had a presidential desk and a business desk. I don’t think you people, with this phony Emoluments Clause,” he said Monday, before trailing off to complain he’s losing money by serving as president.

The emoluments clause is written in Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution.

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announced Thursday that Mr. Trump’s Doral resort was “far and away” the best place to hold the G7, despite knowing the administration would face accusations that the president was using the summit for personal gain.

Some of Mr. Trump’s Republican allies said it was difficult to defend the decision and that it came at a politically sensitive time for the president, who is fending off an impeachment inquiry and criticism over his Syria policy.

Mr. Mulvaney on Sunday said the president was eager to hold the G7 at Doral because he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business.

Mr. Trump confirmed that Monday saying “I’m very good at real estate” and “everyone in the G-7 would have had their own building.”

He also blasted former President Barack Obama, pointing to his post-presidency book deal and a streaming-television contract.

“He has a deal with Netflix. When did they start talking about that?” he said.

The debate over Mr. Trump’s actions, however, centers on payments from U.S. taxpayers and foreign entities.

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 emoluments.

The president has maintained ownership of his business empire since becoming president, though he has turned over day-to-day operations to his children.

Mr. Trump vowed during a January 2017 press conference to keep a firewall between himself and the family business, saying it was important to win the public’s trust even if conflict-of-interest laws don’t require presidents to divorce themselves from their assets.

“President-elect Trump wants there to be no doubt in the minds of the American public that he is completely isolating himself from his business interests,” Sheri Dillon, a D.C. attorney, said at the time. “He instructed us to take all steps realistically possible to make it clear that he is not exploiting the office of the presidency for his personal benefit.”

But Mr. Trump’s weekend tweets appeared to acknowledge he was still pulling the strings at his business.

“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!” he tweeted.

Critics of the initial decision to hold the G7 at Doral said it put foreign leaders in an uncomfortable position and would amount to a free ad for his resort, even if the Trump Organization didn’t bring in a profit.

“You don’t think I get enough promotion? I get more promotion than any human being that’s ever lived, I think,” Mr. Trump said after ticking off a list of great things about the resort.

Mr. Trump said the resort has big meeting rooms, great security and is close to the airport. “It would have been the greatest G7 ever,” he said.

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