Brazen is the only word for it. Well, that and emoluments.
The White House announced Thursday that the next meeting of the G-7 — the leaders of seven of the world’s biggest economies — will take place at President Trump’s for-profit Doral golf resort in Miami in June. Even if the president’s family business, the Trump Organization, hands all the profits from the event over to the government, as it says it has done in the past, holding the summit at the Doral is still a huge boon for a resort that has been flagging since Trump became president. At a minimum, the decision makes the Doral the focus of international attention — a massive windfall in free publicity.
There’s a reason why the emoluments clause, which bars a president from receiving payments from foreign governments, is in the Constitution. The Founders feared the sway foreign entities could hold over the president if they were paying him. Trump already faces two lawsuits over how he has conducted business as president, and the announcement Thursday amounts to the president thumbing his nose at us, saying, in effect, “so sue me — again.”
The whole issue of emoluments gathered dust for most of the nation’s history. It took Trump, a president of great wealth, numerous business interests and a blind spot when it comes to personal ethics, to bring it to the fore. Beyond the conflicts obvious and inherent in mixing the duties of the presidency with his private business dealings, it should be disturbing to all Americans that they cannot tell whether the president’s decisions on a range of issues are reached in the best interests of the nation, or to enhance the Trump family fortune. Other recent presidents have generally placed their assets in blind trusts so they were free to make decisions without knowing how they might affect their own financial status. Trump takes the opposite approach — he uses his position as president to market his own businesses.
Trump claims that he makes no money from events at his properties. But that’s not true — benefits accrue to the family business as favor-seekers and Republicans raising money from campaign donors patronize Trump hotels and resorts. Trump’s transactional approach to the presidency — the wheeler-dealer in chief — undercuts any conventional sense of good governance, and his blurring of lines between public business and private enrichment advances his family’s brand, not the national interest.
The problem of the moment is Trump, but every one of his outrageous acts that goes unchallenged sets the bar lower for future presidents. The nation should not stand for this.