October 22, 2019

G7 Moved From Doral

“U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned plans late on Saturday to host next year’s Group of Seven summit at his Florida golf resort.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left is highly critical of the initial plan, and believes it would have violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

“This is the season of the Trump administration’s flip-flops… He allowed an invasion, then fumed when it happened. He said he was bringing the troops home, then said he’d leave them in place. The flip-flops aren’t just in matters of foreign policy, and the G7 reversal wasn’t even the only U-turn to emerge from Mulvaney’s press briefing Thursday. Asked whether the United States had demanded a quid pro quo from the Ukrainian government—investigate a phantom conspiracy theory about the 2016 election in exchange for American aid—Mulvaney said it sure had. ‘We do that all the time with foreign policy,’ he said. Within hours, Mulvaney had issued a statement denying that he’d said what he’d said… Donald Trump’s administration has beat a hasty retreat from the mountains of ‘Get over it’ to the deserts of ‘Never mind.’”
David A. Graham, The Atlantic

“Trump is the first president in decades to refuse to divest from his business empire. He’s argued the fact that he has placed his financial holdings in a trust that he can access whenever he chooses protects him from conflicts of interest, but his critics argue his continuing to benefit from his hotels and resorts opens the door to corruption… Last week, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, estimated members of 22 different foreign governments have spent money at Trump resorts. Ethics experts at CREW put that number at 111 officials from 65 foreign governments. CREW has also tallied 630 visits to Trump properties from hundreds of administration officials and tracked $5.9 million in spending from political groups at the resorts.”
Riley Beggin, Vox

“These nonstop conflicts mean that, for virtually every decision the president makes, from foreign policy to tax policy to environmental regulations, we need to wonder whether the president is acting in the best interest of the American people or of his own bottom line. Could his recent decision to essentially allow Turkey to invade Syria and rout longtime U.S. allies have been influenced by the many visits that Turkish officials have made to Trump properties or the large Trump-branded complex in Istanbul? It’s outrageous that we even have to ask…

“The president should not get any credit for backing down. The selection of his property for a key international conference was an intolerable abuse. Ethics watchdogs were hardly alone in making that clear before the decision was made. He made it anyway. Bowing to the reality that this abuse would not be tolerated is hardly praiseworthy. You don’t get credit for doing the right thing only after being shamed for doing the wrong thing.”
Noah Bookbinder, USA Today

“There’s no question hosting the G-7 would have financially benefited the president, who has famously refused to surrender his interest in his own company. Even if the resort rented out rooms at a reduced rate or at cost, that’s income it otherwise would not have received if the rooms were sitting empty during Miami’s slow summer season. There’s also the publicity and prestige associated with having world leaders gathering for several days at a resort that reportedly has been struggling since Trump was elected…

“There is a great deal of behavior that may be immoral, unethical or sleazy — and impeachable — without violating the criminal law. Trump has been enriching himself through the presidency from day one. He routinely brings his entire White House entourage to his own resorts at taxpayer expense. Foreign dignitaries snap up rooms in his Washington hotel — and sometimes don’t even use them. In truth, the Doral summit would have been simply the same misconduct on a grander scale. But as a particularly stark example of pure corruption, it ended up being something this White House rarely encounters: a bridge too far.”
Randall D. Eliason, Washington Post

Some note, “National Rifle Association leaders have told Trump that he’d lose the support of gun owners if he threw his weight behind universal background checks. This helps explain why he’s backed down after calling for stricter background checks in the immediate aftermath of multiple mass shootings. This weekend, Trump nixed plans to host the G-7 summit at his Doral golf club not because it gave Democrats fodder for an article of impeachment but because key Republicans told him they couldn’t defend it. The president appears to be repeating this pattern with Syria. These are all illustrations that conservative lawmakers have more leverage over the White House than they seem to think, especially with impeachment votes looming.”
James Hohmann, Washington Post

Dated But Relevant:The framers understood the potential corrosive influence of commercial profit in the executive and wrote the Constitution ‘against a background of profound concern’ regarding ‘possible foreign influence upon the president (and, to be sure, upon other federal officials)’... They designed the Emoluments Clauses as a prophylactic measure to prevent actual corruption and the specter of corruption — where a foreign power (or a domestic government) buys favorable policy decisions by engaging with the head of the executive branch commercially, outside the normal avenues of state… the framers developed [the clauses] as a bulwark against corruption in the highest office in the land.”
Karl A. Racine, Brian E. Frosh and Norman L. Eisen, New York Times

From the Right

The right is divided about hosting the summit at Doral, and argues that the emoluments clause of the Constitution does not apply to the President.

The right is divided about hosting the summit at Doral, and argues that the emoluments clause of the Constitution does not apply to the President.

“Half of the media freak-outs in the Trump era are unwarranted. Trump responds to most media freak-outs by doubling down and digging in, refusing to give an inch. On Doral, though, Trump was wrong. And he was right to give in to his critics for a change… Trump should be avoiding even the appearance of corruption and self-dealing. The bargaining advantage of hosting the event on ‘home turf’ simply isn’t worth taking an action that raises doubts about government integrity in the eyes of millions of voters.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

“Even if the place is absolutely perfect — so good that it will have other world leaders backing Washington’s position on everything — it’s still the president’s resort… When you become leader of the Free World, there are some things you have to give up, including any hint of promoting your own properties. It’s not the obscure issue of ‘emoluments,’ nor the folks who (as Mulvaney put it) ‘will never get over the fact that it’s a Trump property’ that you have to think about… It’s that voters expect and deserve clear signs that their president is working for them — not promoting himself.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

Others argue, “There’s no denying the fact that if the Doral had been booked for the summit in a ‘business as usual’ fashion it could, at least in theory, put some extra cash from foreign world leaders in the Trump family’s coffers… But the Doral could have offered to host the event without charging the visiting world leaders anything and written their expenses off as a loss. The prestige of hosting the event would likely still be more than enough for them… Some sort of deal along those lines would have swung the ball back into Trump’s court, allowing him to justifiably claim that he was saving the taxpayer’s money. Going to Camp David is going to run up a bill footed by the voters…

“It’s not as if these summits haven’t been held in posh, privately owned locations on a regular basis. Last year when Justin Trudeau was hosting, the event was held at Hotel Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, a world-class, luxury resort in Quebec. And while Trudeau may not own the resort personally, if you don’t think the actual owners aren’t players on the political field you’re fooling yourself.”
Jazz Shaw, Hot Air

“Trump has a style that many, including me, feel lacks manners and basic standards of propriety, but he always has. He got elected because of it, not in spite of it. Of course he wants to lord his giant resort over the head of everyone he meets at the G7. What, are we supposed to be shocked by this? This is what he was elected to do. And that’s the point. Trump was elected to shake things up, to take Angela Merkel into a gaudy ballroom and proudly tell her that he personally approved every chandelier there. He is meant to bask in his own glory as a proxy for our nation’s and remind the other powers just who exactly they are talking to.”
David Marcus, The Federalist

“Much of the commentary on Trump’s business and the presidency feels something like Schrodinger's corruption: Trump is both enriching himself with his office while simultaneously growing poorer. Most of his diminishing returns are pretty directly a result of that very office, and it’s helpful to take a step back from all the headlines and see what’s really under the financial hood when making such claims about a sitting president…

“The quickest [measure] to ascertain, and the one Trump is most sensitive to and prone to brag about, is his net worth. It has plummeted from the $4.5 billion it was in 2015, before his campaign announcement, all the way to approximately $3 billion today, something that can largely be attributed to Trump's diminishing property values. There has been a precipitous 33% fall since the decision to go from citizen Trump, to candidate, and then president… an objective assessment of the actual dollars and cents behind it shows that either Trump is really lousy at [using the presidency to enrich himself], or he is attempting to do no such thing.”
Jason Orestes, Washington Examiner

Dated But Relevant:The President is not subject to the Foreign Emoluments Clause… In 1791, President George Washington received, accepted, and kept a diplomatic gift — a framed full-length portrait of King Louis XVI from the French ambassador to the United States. There is no evidence that Washington ever sought or received congressional consent to keep this valuable gift… President Thomas Jefferson received a bust of Czar Alexander I, a diplomatic gift, from the Russian government… Jefferson also received presents from Indian tribes, which he considered ‘diplomatic gifts’ from foreign nations…

“What all these presents from foreign states had in common was that the presidential recipients believed (as best as we can tell) that keeping the presents had no constitutional implications under the Foreign Emoluments Clause… The phrase at issue here — ‘Office … under the United States’ — had a long-established pedigree. There is every good reason to conclude that, because ‘office … under the United States’ in the 1790 Act (and in other subsequent federal statutes) could not have reached elected officials, the same language in the Constitution does not reach elected officials, such as the president.”
Josh Blackman and Seth Barrett Tillman, Washington Post

Madrid's streets were left baa-dly congested on Sunday, as more than 2,000 sheep passed through its bustling city centre for an annual event.

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