'They're the best': Trump says he can't help it that Pence, other officials stay at his hotels

Pence's chief of staff told reporters Trump suggested the vice president stay at Trump Doonbeg. Trump denied that.

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By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday that he had "no involvement" with Vice President Mike Pence's decision to stay at his golf resort near Doonbeg, Ireland, adding "people like my product, what can I tell you."

"Well I had no involvement, other than it’s a great place," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office before explaining that Pence's family hails from that area, "which is really amazing."

"But from what I understood, he was going there," Trump said. "Then I heard he was going there, but I didn’t — it wasn’t my idea for Mike to go there. Mike went there because his family’s there. That’s my understanding of it."

Pressed on whether he suggested Pence stay at the hotel, as the vice president's chief of staff told reporters Tuesday, Trump said he did not.

"No, I didn’t," the president said. "I don’t suggest anything. I don’t suggest it, nor did I with the attorney general, I never spoke to the attorney general about using my hotel," referring to reports that Attorney General William Barr has booked a $30,000 holiday party at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., in December.

"I have a lot of hotels all over the place, and people use them because they’re the best ... " Trump said. "And I know the attorney general is using it, as I read in the paper. To this day I haven’t spoken to him about it, but he’s using the hotel. And people like my product, what can I tell you, can’t help it."

"I guess they said we want to stay at a place that’s better than someplace else," the president continued. "But with Mike Pence I never spoke about it, and with Bill I never spoke about, Attorney General Barr, we never spoke about it. But that’s what they choose."

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Trump's comments followed efforts by Pence's office earlier in the day to distance the president from the vice president's stay at Trump Doonbeg during his visit to Ireland.

In a statement, the vice president's office said Trump did not "direct" the vice president to stay at the golf club and the decision was "solely" made by Pence's office.

The statement was the third time within the past day that Pence or his team sought to clarify why he stayed at the president's Irish golf club on the opposite side of the country as its capital city Dublin, where Pence's meetings were set to take place with Irish officials. Rather than stay in Dublin, Pence opted to make the back-and-forth trip from Doonbeg, more than an hour flight each way.

Pence's stay has revived accusations that Trump is personally profiting from being president through use of his hotel in Washington, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, and other properties.

Originally, Pence, who is traveling with his wife, sister and mother, was set to conclude his European trip in Doonbeg, where he has familial ties. His schedule changed as a result of Trump canceling his European travel because of Hurricane Dorian.

"Because of some misreporting, we want to clarify that the decision to stay at Trump National in Doonbeg, Ireland was solely a decision by the Office of the Vice President and was based on the requirement to find accommodations near the Vice President’s ancestral hometown that could satisfy official meetings on both coasts of the Emerald Isle," the statement said.

"The Vice President's family previously stayed at the same resort in 2013 prior to the Trump Organization's acquisition of the property and the office was aware of its proximity to the ancestral home where his great grandmother lived before migrating to the United States," it continued.

"Our original schedule contemplated one night in Doonbeg after official meetings in Dublin. When Hurricane Dorian required our office to change the schedule on short notice, the decision was made to overnight in Doonbeg for two nights to accommodate official business and public events on both coasts. At no time did the President direct our office to stay at his Doonbeg resort and any reporting to the contrary is false."

On Tuesday, Pence's chief of staff Marc Short said Trump had suggested Pence stay at his Irish golf club on the official trip, "I don't think it was a request, like a command ... I think that it was a suggestion."

"It's like when we went through the trip, it's like, well, he's going to Doonbeg because that's where the Pence family is from," Short said before describing the president's suggestion. "It's like, 'Well, you should stay at my place.'"

"It wasn't like a 'you must,'" Short added. "It wasn't like 'you have to.' It's a facility that could accommodate the team. Keep in mind, the Secret Service has protected that facility for him, too, so they sort of know the realities, they know the logistics around that facility."

Marine One, carrying President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump comes in to land at the Trump International Golf resort near the village of Doonbeg in Ireland.Paul Faith / AFP - Getty Images file

After speaking to reporters, Short told a New York Times reporter that Pence is "personally paying all family expenses."

Later in the day, Pence said it was a necessity to stay at Trump Doonbeg in order "to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel." The vice president called the decision "logical."

"We checked it with the State Department," Pence added. "They approved us staying there."

The president has come under scrutiny for using taxpayer dollars at his properties. He even suggested last month that next year's G-7 summit should be hosted at his Miami golf resort, insisting he would not profit off such a venture.

The president has spent roughly 300 days at Trump properties since taking office, according to an NBC News count. Ahead of his inauguration, Trump chose to turn control of his company over to his two adult sons and a senior Trump Organization executive rather than divest from his large portfolio.