Criticism Follows Announcement That 2020 G7 Summit Will Be Held At Trump Resort

Oct 18, 2019
Originally published on October 18, 2019 6:51 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Something you may have missed yesterday between the Turkey-Syria negotiations, the impeachment inquiry and a potential Brexit deal was this announcement from White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

MICK MULVANEY: We're going to announce today that we're going to do the 46th G-7 summit on June 10 through June 12 at the Trump National Doral facility in Miami, Fla.

CORNISH: Every seven years or so, it's America's turn to host the G-7 summit, a gathering of world leaders that brings thousands of diplomats, staffers, journalists and security to a single location. This year, President Trump will be hosting the summit at his own property, The Trump National Doral golf resort, which is near Miami. To talk more about this, we're joined by David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post. He's reported extensively on Trump-related conflicts of interest.

Welcome to the program.

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD: Thank you.

CORNISH: Describe the resort itself and how the business has been doing.

FAHRENTHOLD: It's a pretty large golf resort in kind of an inland area surrounded by office parks west of the Miami airport. So you hear Miami resort, you might think it's near the beach - it's not. It's a famous - if you know golf, it's a place that's been sort of famous in golf history. For Trump, though, it has not been doing very well lately. The internal documents that we've seen show that between 2015 and 2017, net operating income at the club actually went down by 69%, which is a pretty huge drop in a couple of years.

And the reason - so Trump hired this representative to go to Miami Dade County and show them how bad it was doing to try to lower their property tax valuation. She - this representative explained the reason for this downturn is Trump. His brand is driving people away.

CORNISH: So how much money would the Trump Organization stand to make on arrangement on something like the G-7?

FAHRENTHOLD: We've been trying to figure that out today. And the only thing we're getting, which is sort of maddening, is, well, they're just going to charge their costs. But, you know, who sets the costs? You know, who decides - Trump is the buyer and the seller in this situation, so who is going - how is he going to negotiate with himself, and who's going to check that?

But one thing you can tell by looking at the scope of G-7 events in years past, these things are huge. The one that they had in 2004 in the U.S. - the last time it was held at a private property in the U.S. They served 45,000 meals. They had 7,000 people. That's a contract worth at least several million dollars to Trump, if not more. And remember, it comes at a time in June when the hotel was normally more than 60% empty.

CORNISH: OK. But Mick Mulvaney did talk about how Doral came to be chosen from the list of essentially 10 different locations. Here's what he had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

MULVANEY: It became apparent at the end of that process that Doral was by far and away, far and away the best physical facility for this meeting. In fact, I was talking to one of the advance teams when they came back, and I said, what was it like? And he said, Mick, you're not going to believe this, but it's almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.

CORNISH: Now, President Obama held a summit at Camp David. George W. Bush held it at Sea Island Resort in Georgia. How does this compare to those settings?

FAHRENTHOLD: The main difference is the lack of isolation. These things bring eight world leaders, lots and lots of diplomats. That's a huge security concern. So they like to do it in places that are very nice but also that you can seal off.

You know, Sea Island was an island. You can - you know, most of it's surrounded by the ocean. It's easy to protect. Doral is not that at all. It's in the middle of a very busy neighborhood. It's near the Miami airport. It's not seal-offable (ph).

The crazy thing to me about this, you know, we looked at all these other sites and Doral was the best - you only get to make that argument if you tell me what the other sites were, right? If the other sites are, you know, three Chucky Cheese's and my basement and the top of Mount McKinley...

CORNISH: Quite the list.

FAHRENTHOLD: ...Of course Doral was the best place. But if you don't tell me what the other sites were, I have no way of trusting that assertion that Doral was the best.

CORNISH: Now, the president promised when he took office that he would, quote, "be leaving his great business in total." How is that promise playing out? Is this an example of a breach of that promise?

FAHRENTHOLD: This is the explosion of that promise. This is the end of that promise. This has been something that - a promise that Trump himself has been eroding slowly over the last couple years as he repeatedly visits his properties, bringing along with him his own staffers, federal government security folks, foreign government security folks and often Republicans in huge numbers who have banquets at his property. But nothing on the scale of this. So he's never attempted anything this big that would result in this much income for him.

CORNISH: That's David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post.

Thank you for speaking with us.

FAHRENTHOLD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.