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Mulvaney defends decision to host G-7 at Doral: Trump 'considers himself to be in the hospitality business'
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday said President Trump was "honestly surprised at the level of pushback" about his decision to host the Group of Seven (G-7) summit at one of his resort properties, adding that Trump still "considers himself to be in the hospitality business."
The justification from Mulvaney came just a day after Trump reversed his decision to hold the the G-7 summit at Trump National Doral in Florida in light of outrage from Democrats, Republicans and ethics watchdog groups.
"At the end of the day, you know, 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 it at Doral," Mulvaney said on on "Fox News Sunday."
Host Chris Wallace immediately pushed back, saying bluntly, "You say he considers himself in the hospitality business. He's the president of the United States."
"But that's his background," Mulvaney replied. "I used to be in the real estate business. I don't know what you used to do before you were in the media."
"He wanted to put on a show," Mulvaney added. "He's in the hotel business."
Asked by Wallace if Trump understood that the optics looked "lousy," Mulvaney insisted the administration could have put on an "excellent" G-7 at Trump's Miami-area resort.
Mulvaney sparked widespread alarm last week when he announced that the 2020 G-7 summit would convene at one of Trump's properties, with many arguing that the move violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. The clause bars federal officeholders from from receiving gifts or benefits from foreign governments.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, called it an example of "corruption, plain and simple." Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also said that it was inappropriate for Trump to hold an event convening world leaders at one of his properties.
In the wake of the criticism, Trump announced late Saturday that he would no longer consider his Doral resort as a viable option for the event.
"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," Trump tweeted. "We will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately."
In announcing the decision last week, Mulvaney asserted that Trump would receive no profit from the gathering. He also pushed back against the appearance of a conflict of interest, stating that the site was chosen after a careful search throughout the U.S.
He echoed those arguments on Sunday, adding that the administration would put on a formidable G-7 summit somewhere else.