Senate Democrat asks Pence for information on stay at Trump hotel

Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersElection security funds passed by Senate seen as welcome first step Democrats introduce bill to block taxpayer-funded spending at Trump properties Hillicon Valley: Google to promote original reporting | Senators demand answers from Amazon on worker treatment | Lawmakers weigh response to ransomware attacks MORE (D-Mich.) sent Vice President Pence a letter Thursday requesting further information on his recent stay at one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE’s properties in Ireland.

Pence sparked controversy over his two-night stay at Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg, which was 182 miles away from the vice president's meetings in Dublin. Shifting explanations for the decision from his staff and the White House only fueled speculation.

A top aide for Pence initially said Trump had suggested he stay at the site, though Pence’s office later clarified that the decision was entirely the vice president’s. 

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“I write with concern that, at President Trump’s ‘suggestion,’ you decided to stay at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the village of Doonbeg during your official visit to Ireland,” Peters, the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote in the letter. 

“This raises serious concerns about wasteful expenditures and possible conflicts of interest related to taxpayer-funded travel by this Administration,” he said, adding that his trip “creates the risk that taxpayer funds are being used to directly profit the President.” 

Peters requested that Pence provide the total cost of his trip, including the specific amount spent at the Trump property for him and his family, and say if any analysis had been conducted to compare the cost to stay in Doonbeg over Dublin. The Michigan Democrat requested the information by Oct. 1.

Trump has denied making any suggestion to Pence that he stay at the resort, telling reporters Wednesday it wasn’t his idea.

Pence has defended the move, saying his family has ties to Doonbeg and that staying at a Trump property that is already under Secret Service protection made logistical sense to him.

“I understand political attacks by Democrats, but if you have a chance to get to Doonbeg, you’ll find it’s a fairly small place, and the opportunity to stay at Trump National in Doonbeg, to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel, made it logical,” he told reporters this week.

Peters dismissed the explanation, saying he found it “hard to believe that your office was unable to identify lodgings that could accommodate the security and logistical needs of your trip in the capital of Ireland.”

Government spending at Trump properties has emerged as a chief concern for congressional Democrats who accuse the administration of using taxpayer dollars to personally enrich the president.

Peters in February released a Government Accountability Office report that shows Trump’s trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida from Feb. 3 through March 5, 2017, alone cost taxpayers $13.6 million. 

Trump chose not to place his assets in a blind trust when he took office, instead handing control of his company to his two adult sons.