Next year, the US plays host to the G-7 summit that concluded today in Biarritz, France. Donald Trump wants to take that role seriously as well as literally, it seems. In remarks at the summit, Trump extolled the Doral Resort Hotel as the best place to hold the conference.
That would be the Trump National Doral Resort, actually:
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 26, 2019
Axios first reported Trump’s interest in Doral as the venue last month, but this is the first time Trump has made that public. Faster than anyone could say emoluments, the promotion raised eyebrows:
Aides say Trump has sought for months to hold the summit there, but many of his advisers have warned against the idea, concerned about the ethics of the president profiting from an official government event.
Since taking office, Trump has faced pushback about his official visits to his properties from some of his aides, including inside the White House Counsel’s Office. They worried about the appearance that he was using the power of the presidency to direct taxpayer money into his own pockets, according to current and former White House officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Trump has not divested from his private business interests and has regularly visited them during the presidency, eating out at his own hotel in D.C. and spending many weekends at his properties in New Jersey and Florida, where GOP officials often hold fundraisers.
Trump declared that the other world leaders in the G-7 “love the location of the hotel,” but one has to wonder if they’ll love the weather. If it’s held in the summer next year, Miami will be a less-than-pleasant venue, even if the logistics might be superior at Doral. Beyond that, though, the president’s promotion of his own resort will once again fuel this debate and make it look as though Trump wants to personally profit from his office. While that’s not the same thing as “emoluments” in a constitutional sense, voters might consider it a little bit … swampy, let’s say.
The commercial value of using Miami might pale in comparison to its political value regardless of the weather. Holding it in Miami would constitute something of a second GOP convention for Trump in the run-up to the election in a very critical state for his re-election. Trump’s presence before, during, and after a G-7 summit in Miami would give his campaign all sorts of earned media, plus plenty of economic benefit to south Florida. Trump won’t win those counties, but if he can narrow the scope of his loss in them, he has a much better chance of carrying the state two months later.
Another invitation might be less explicable. With the G-7 firmly aligned against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and seizure of Crimea, Trump suggested inviting Vladimir Putin next year anyway. Trump blamed Barack Obama for Putin’s absence:
President Trump on Monday said he would “certainly” invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend next year’s Group of Seven (G-7) summit when it’s hosted by the United States.
“Would I invite him? I would certainly invite him. Whether or not he could come psychologically, I think that’s a tough thing for him to do,” Trump said during a press conference at the close of this weekend’s G-7 summit in France. …
“Whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run,” Trump said ahead of last year’s G-7 meeting. “And in the G-7, which used be the G-8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”
Trump claimed this weekend that multiple other G-7 attendees signaled they would support readmitting Russia to the group. But he did not provide any names or specific accounts, and other world leaders have said Russia rejoining would be contingent on deescalating its involvement in Ukraine.
We do have a world to run, but it’s best run when nations get penalized for invading other nations and seizing their land. When NPR reporter Yamiche Alcindor followed up on the issue, Trump accused her of covering for Obama:
“Why do you keep using the misleading statement that Russia outsmarted President Obama when other countries have said the reason Russia was kicked out was very clearly because they annexed Crimea?” asked PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor during the late afternoon press conference in Biarritz, France. “Why would you keep repeating what some people see as a clear lie?”
“I know you like President Obama,” Trump shot back, “but it was annexed during his term. If it was during my term, I would say, ‘Sorry, folks, I made a mistake.’ … Obama was pure and simply outsmarted.”
It’s worth noting, however, that Russia still holds Crimea and it still has troops in eastern Ukraine, where no one doubts Kyiv’s sovereignty. When this started is a moot point; the fact that it’s still ongoing is the issue. So far Trump hasn’t succeeded in getting Russia to retreat, and at least so far doesn’t appear terribly interested in pressing the issue. That is a mistake, especially in the signal it sends to other independent nations on Russia’s borders.
French president Emmanuel Macron shot down the idea almost as soon as Trump floated it. Both he and Angela Merkel want Russia to get out of Ukraine first:
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday G7 leaders had not reached a consensus on inviting Russia to next year’s G7 summit in the United States.
Macron added that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would organize a summit in the coming weeks with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders to obtain results on the crisis in Ukraine.
Until that happens, Putin will likely remain on the outside looking in. As he should be.
In case readers don’t get the reference in the headline, here’s Rosemary Clooney performing a small part of her classic song, which you’ll recognize from fine Italian-cuisine dining everywhere: