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Mulvaney defends Doral selection: Trump 'still considers himself to be in the hospitality business'

After pushback, Trump reversed course, announcing that his private Miami resort would no longer host the G-7 summit of world leaders.
Image: Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney listens in the Oval Office on July 26, 2019.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney listens in the Oval Office on July 26, 2019.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post / Getty Images file

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, asked about the original choice of President Donald Trump's private Miami golf resort to host next year's Group of Seven summit, said Sunday that Trump "still considers himself to be in the hospitality business.

Following bipartisan criticism, Trump reversed the decision Saturday, saying his administration would begin the search for a new location, "including the possibility of Camp David, immediately."

"We talked about it at great length last night," Mulvaney told "Fox News Sunday," adding that Trump "was honestly surprised at the level of pushback."

"At the end of the day he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business and he saw an opportunity to take the biggest leaders from around the world and he wanted to put on the absolute best show, the best visit that he possibly could, and he was very comfortable doing that at Doral," Mulvaney said. "I think we were all surprised at the level of pushback. I think it's the right decision to change and we'll have to find someplace else and my guess is we'll find someplace else the media won't like for another reason."

"Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace pushed back on Mulvaney saying Trump is in the hospitality business, pointing out that Trump is the president, not a hotel executive.

"Yeah, but it's his background," Mulvaney said, adding, "he's in the hotel business, or at least he was before he was president."

Mulvaney said Trump understood that "people think" the decision to host a major international summit at Trump National Doral Miami "looks lousy."

Mulvaney's answers came after Trump announced in a Saturday night tweet that the event would no longer be hosted at his Miami resort.

"Based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020," he tweeted. "We will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately."

Trump initially defended the move, saying on Twitter, "I thought I was doing something very good for our Country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 Leaders." The president also tweeted that Doral had many advantages, including "tremendous ballrooms & meeting rooms," and that hosting the event would come "at ZERO COST to the USA."

Mulvaney announced that the president had awarded his own business the event during a Thursday press conference at the White House in which he also said Trump in part held up military aid to Ukraine until it moved to investigate a debunked conspiracy involving the 2016 U.S. election.

"To be clear: what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is 'funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened, as well,'" ABC reporter Jonathan Karl said Thursday.

"We do that all the time with foreign policy," Mulvaney responded, adding that the administration had also held up money to three Central American countries so that they would change their immigration policies.

The acknowledgment was a stunning one, as Trump and his allies have vigorously denied that there was any "quid pro quo" with Ukraine. Mulvaney attempted to walk back his comments later Thursday, declaring, "There was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election." His statement contradicted the remarks he made during the earlier press briefing.

On Sunday, Mulvaney acknowledged he never would have been in that position had the press conference not been set up to announce the news that president had awarded his own resort the G-7 summit.

"And it's not lost on me that if we made the decision on Thursday, we wouldn't have had the press conference on Thursday regarding everything else, but that's fine," Mulvaney told "Fox News Sunday."

The G-7 decision — which Trump had teased at the summit in Biarritz, France, over the summer — came under immediate criticism that Trump was seeking to personally profit off the presidency. The White House insisted that would not be the case amid the widespread concern that Trump would be violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars any cash or gifts from foreign government officials to the president that are not otherwise approved by Congress.

Trump has already come under scrutiny for how often he visits Trump-owned and Trump-branded properties as president, which leads to tax dollars being spent at his business. Trump is also the subject of multiple lawsuits and congressional investigations accusing him of either violating the emoluments clause or profiting off the presidency.

In a Thursday statement, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said Mulvaney's G-7 announcement was "among the most brazen examples yet of the president's corruption." His committee announced a probe in August when the president first floated the idea of hosting the upcoming G-7 at his resort.