President Trump said Monday that next year’s Group of 7 summit — an annual gathering of world leaders representing powerful democracies — could take place at his own golf resort in Florida.
If the summit were to take place at one of Trump’s private hotels, that means the president could profit personally from the conference of global leaders, although the Constitution prohibits presidents from taking payments from foreign governments.
The president said at a news conference Monday that his team had looked at 12 sites but that Trump National resort in Doral, Fla., proved to be a “natural” option. He boasted about a series of “magnificent buildings” with “luxurious rooms” and “incredible” views, restaurants and conference rooms.
“My people wanted it. From my standpoint, I’m not going to make any money,” said Trump, who owns more than 10 hotels and golf clubs around the world, including the Doral hotel. “In my opinion, I’m not going to make any money. I don’t want to make money.”
When further quizzed about profits the move could bring him, Trump discussed the financial losses he said he had sustained as president.
“In a combination of loss and opportunity, I think it will lose me anywhere from $3 [billion to] $5 billion to be president,” Trump said. “I used to get paid to give speeches. Now I give speeches all the time. You know what I get? Zippo.”
Earlier in the day, the president told reporters during an appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the conference in France that the summit would likely take place in Miami for the convenience of its international airport “that takes planes from everywhere.” When asked whether he would host the G-7 at the Trump National hotel in Doral, he said it was a strong contender.
“They love the location of the hotel,” Trump said. “We haven’t found anything that’s even close to competing with it.”
Trump added that although a final decision had not been made, the resort’s “tremendous acreage” and availability of buildings with conference rooms for each delegation made it a favorable option.
The Constitution bars federal officials from taking “emoluments,” or forms of payment or profit, from any “King, Prince, or Foreign State” as an ethics guideline. The Washington Post, which has covered Trump’s business dealings extensively, explains that this clause can be traced back to the Founding Fathers, who sought to stop U.S. ambassadors from taking bribes from wealthy European states. The modern meaning of the clause, however, isn’t as rigid because most presidents have steered clear of business entanglements while in office.
Because of Trump’s business ventures, ethical concerns about the potential for conflicts of interest in relation to his business empire have followed the president since he was on the campaign trail. The unprecedented business ties also have led to confusion among federal regulators, including in regard to the emoluments clause.
A report released earlier this year alleged that General Services Administration officials “ignored” concerns that Trump’s lease on a government-owned building could violate the Constitution when it allowed Trump to keep the lease after he took office.
The report found that although officials administering the lease — under Presidents Obama and Trump — were aware that the Trump International Hotel’s business with foreign governments could be interpreted as an emoluments violation, the officials often concluded that the issue was someone else’s responsibility and failed to conduct a comprehensive review.
Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and a ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said Monday, in response to the president’s comments, that forcing foreign governments to spend money at Trump’s hotel to attend the G-7 would be a violation of the emoluments clause.
“Under no circumstances should the G-7 be held at Trump’s Doral resort, which would be one of the most egregious examples of corruption and self-dealing in a presidency replete with them. Trump is using the office to line his own pockets at the expense of the American people and our standing in the world,” Wyden said in a statement. “The Treasury Department, which plays an integral role in orchestrating the G-7, should not allow this to go forward.”
Wyden said he planned to follow up with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and press Trump about the site selection process.
The president has repeatedly vowed to fight congressional oversight efforts to scrutinize his conduct, including his business dealings.
Times staff writers Eli Stokols and Noah Bierman contributed to this report.