WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump beat a hasty retreat, blaming “irrational hostility” from Democrats and the news media for the backlash over his attempt to hold an international summit of leaders at his Florida golf resort at taxpayer expense.
A growing chorus of criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike was led by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who’s helming an investigation of the president’s possible constitutional violations for profiting from foreign governments using his Washington hotel.
The White House announced last week that the Group of 7 summit in June would be held at Trump National Doral Miami, a sprawling golf complex that is part of his portfolio of properties, like the Washington hotel, under control of the Trump Organization.
Trump never severed ties from the organization, run by his sons, after being elected president.
“I thought I was doing something very good for our Country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting G-7 leaders,” Trump wrote on Twitter late Saturday.
“It is big, grand, on hundreds of acres, next to MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, has tremendous ballrooms & meeting rooms, and each delegation would have … it’s own 50 to 70 unit building,” Trump wrote.
Trump also said he would do it for zero cost to the United States.
“But as usual, the Hostile Media & and their crazy Democrat Partners went CRAZY,” he wrote.
The resort is losing money, according to records, and holding the international summit there would bring full occupancy, media attention and additional security expenditures during an offseason period in Florida summer.
Before his reversal, Trump said he would bill taxpayers for only costs incurred by the hotel, and provide accommodations for foreign dignitaries “at cost.”
Titus, among many others, said the arrangement was a blatant example of Trump violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits a president from receiving gifts or payments from a foreign government or state governments.
“The only logical conclusion is that President Trump is proud to be the most corrupt, lawless president in modern American history,” said Titus, after the White House announced the plans.
Titus is leading an investigation into Trump’s lease of the U.S.-owned Old Post Office, where he has his Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Since Trump was elected, the hotel has been a gathering spot and has provided accommodations for foreign government celebrations.
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Titus’ subcommittee on public buildings seek documents about these arrangements, with plans to subpoena the General Services Administration as early as next week to get records on payments and profits from foreign governments and officials staying at Trump’s hotel.
“This casual corruption is happening in plain sight, including in his own backyard at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue,” Titus said.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the investigation is an attempt to distract the president from his duties, and his personal lawyers have said in court filings that there is no violation of the law.
The House Judiciary Committee, under Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., is looking into Trump directives to administration officials and the military to stay at his hotel and golf complex in Scotland during overseas trips.
Meanwhile, the White House announcement on Doral last week made Republicans squeamish.
GOP lawmakers were at a loss to defend it, citing the appearance of impropriety, and a former White House spokesman for former President George W. Bush panned the idea.
“Holding the G-7 at a Trump property is one of the most foolish, unseemly things the WH could do,” said Ari Fleischer.
“The president enjoys waving red flags in front of bulls, but this fight isn’t worth it,” Fleischer wrote on Twitter.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Doral was chosen over other locations in the United States, including one in Hawaii.
Trump said Saturday that the White House and administration would search for another site. In his retreat, Trump said he was considering Camp David in Maryland, a site Mulvaney dismissed last week as “too small.”