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Democrats say a G-7 summit at Trump’s Doral golf resort could violate the Constitution

Trump says next G-7 summit should be in Doral, Florida

During a conference at the G-7 summit on August 26, 2019, President Donald Trump suggested that next year's summit take place in Doral in Florida. He went on to explain why.
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During a conference at the G-7 summit on August 26, 2019, President Donald Trump suggested that next year's summit take place in Doral in Florida. He went on to explain why.

House Democrats are expanding their probe into President Donald Trump’s conduct as president to include the decision-making process on the location for next year’s G-7 summit ⁠— which the president wants to host at his golf resort in Doral.

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday requested a list of documents and communications from the White House to see if Trump violated the Emoluments Cause of the U.S. Constitution, a law that prevents the federal government from receiving gifts, offices or titles from foreign governments without the consent of Congress.

Hosting next year’s summit at Trump National Doral Miami could potentially present a conflict with the Constitution because the foreign governments that would attend the meeting will spend money on lodging, transportation and security. Democrats say it could violate the Constitution if Trump profits from an official meeting of foreign heads of state at one of his resorts while he is president.

“The Doral situation reflects perhaps the first publicly known instance in which foreign governments would be required to spend foreign government funds at President Trump’s private businesses in order to engage in official diplomatic negotiations and meetings with the United States,” Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Constitution subcommittee chair Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN, wrote in a letter to the White House on Thursday.

Trump first suggested the high-profile meeting be held at his resort on Aug. 26 during a news conference in France. He later said that his administration had looked at 12 different sites but felt that Doral was the best location. He argued that the venue is a logical host because of its spacious accommodations and proximity to Miami International Airport.

Nadler and Cohen are asking the White House to provide a complete list of cities that were considered for next year’s G7 summit, copies of any Justice Department guidance on the constitutionality of hosting the summit at Doral and communications between the Secret Service, White House, State Department and Trump National Doral related to the summit. Letters requesting documents were also sent to the Secret Service, the vice president’s office and the Trump Organization.

“Potential violations of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution are of grave concern to the committee as it considers whether to recommend articles of impeachment,” Nadler and House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said in a statement on Friday.

House Democrats gave the White House until September 19 to respond. The committee did not issue subpoenas on Friday as part of the investigation though a congressional source said the committee is “looking at next steps” if the White House doesn’t respond. A spokesperson for Trump Doral did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Miami Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is a member of the Judiciary Committee and is in favor of launching an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s potential obstruction of the Mueller Investigation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far resisted calls from Democrats to open an inquiry.

“I think we’re in the process of investigating different instances with the president where he has abused his power, obstructed justice and now we’re investigating the violation of the Emoluments Clause,” Mucarsel-Powell said in an interview Friday. “He made it very clear that he was advertising his resort. He can’t use the presidency to enrich himself, his company or his family.”

Mucarsel-Powell said Democrats are willing to battle Trump in court if he doesn’t produce documents.

The committee is also looking into Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Ireland this week, where he stayed at a Trump resort in Doonbeg on Ireland’s west coast, even though his official meetings were three hours away in Dublin, the country’s capital on the east coast.

Trump hasn’t said explicitly that he wants to host the 2020 G-7 Summit at Trump National Doral, though the White House tweeted a video on Aug. 26 with the caption “President @realDonaldTrump shares the location of the next @G7 summit, hosted by the United States!”

The Doral golf resort has seen business decline since Trump ran for president, with the PGA Tour canceling a tournament. Golfers who quit their memberships could wait years to get their deposits back.

“Having it in Miami is fantastic,” Trump said during the Aug. 26 press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. “Each country can have their own villa, or their own bungalow.”

Mucarsel-Powell doesn’t buy Trump’s argument that the Secret Service and White House advisers told the president that his own resort would be an ideal venue for next year’s summit.

“We don’t have all the evidence. This is why it’s so important for the Judiciary Committee to continue to investigate,” Mucarsel-Powell said.

Miami Herald reporter David Smiley contributed to this report.

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