Washington – The Trump administration’s plan to host a G-7 Summit at one of the president’s resorts in Florida — the kind of behavior Sen. Richard Blumenthal is trying to stop with a lawsuit — has put a new focus on an obscure section of the U.S. Constitution known as the emoluments clause.
“Our Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves,” Blumenthal said. “Holding an international summit of world leaders at the President’s resort is not just a conflict of interest, it is unconstitutional.”
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney put an end to weeks of speculation Thursday by saying the next G-7 Summit of world leaders would be held at the financially struggling Trump Doral golf resort outside Miami.
That decision puts Trump at risk of violating the foreign emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution and adds momentum to the House impeachment investigation.
It also revived attention on a lawsuit filed by Blumenthal and about 200 other Democratic lawmakers, who argue Congress must approve — or withhold — consent before the president accepts payments or benefits from foreign governments.
Blumenthal v. Trump was based on the foreign emoluments clause written into the U.S. Constitution by the founding fathers, who did not envision Trump but did worry about the activities of a businessman-president.
Filed in a federal court in Washington D.C. in 2017, action on the case — including the process of discovery that would allow plaintiffs access to the Trump organization’s financial documents– has been stalled by a Justice Department appeal.
But the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals this week revived a separate lawsuit by Maryland and the District of Columbia, that is also based on the emoluments clause, challenging Trump’s ownership of a luxury hotel five blocks from the White House.
Blumenthal said the world leaders and staff attending next June’s G-7 summit “won’t be staying at Trump’s resort for free.”
The G-7 summit also draws hundreds of diplomats, journalists and security personnel and provides an international spotlight.
“The money made and the free promotion from this international event will line the President and his family’s wallets – and it won’t be pocket change,” Blumenthal said. “What are the chances that out of all the hotels in the country, the G7 leadership chose President Trump’s? Actually, there’s a pretty simple explanation: corruption.”
Mulvaney said the Doral resort was the best place among those considered for the summit and the president would not make a profit from the event.
“There will be folks that will never get over that it’s a Trump property. We get that,” Mulvaney said. “He’s not making any money off of this, just like he’s not making any money from working here.”
Still, the Doral decision has revived the debate about conflicts of interest based on Trump’s widespread holdings.
A day earlier, Blumenthal held up the confirmation of Barbara Barrett to be Secretary of the Air Force because she would not commit to prohibiting Air Force personnel from using Trump-branded properties for military travel whenever feasible.
“Barrett’s repeated failure to commit to ending unnecessary and unlawful Air Force spending at President Trump’s properties should be disqualifying,” Blumenthal said. “The military must stop subsidizing Trump hotels and golf clubs—making the Pentagon budget his personal piggy bank. Strong ethical standards and independence are more necessary than ever.”
Since Barrett would not commit to stopping the practice, Blumenthal put a hold on her nomination, forcing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to hold a cloture vote to release the nomination.
Barrett was finally confirmed on Wednesday by a Senate vote of 85-7. Blumenthal voted against the nominee while fellow Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy voted for Barrett’s confirmation.