OP-ED: Is there any matter of state Trump won’t try to make a buck from?
One of the odder elements of the recently concluded G-7 meetings in France came when the assembled world leaders took up plans for next year’s gathering, to be held in the United States.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” President Trump said (in words to that effect). “Why don’t you all come to my place?”
As in, the Trump National Doral Miami, a prime piece of resort property owned by the Trump Organization, the president’s family business from which, while he has sworn off any decision-making roles, he still profits.
So here we have a sitting president putting forward one of his business entities as the site for an international gathering of heads of state, with the usual entourage of hundreds of aides, journalists and security details.
Emoluments violation? Or just basic self-dealing? This is serious stuff. The intersection of the public duties of the president and Trump’s selective blindness to his own conflicts of interest has been a problem from the get-go.
Remember that dog-and-pony show where he trotted out his accountant to talk about the papers Trump said he’d signed turning over control of the Trump Organization to his sons, with an ethics expert to watch over their shoulders?
Or the family pledge not to engage in any foreign deals while Trump is president? That didn’t last long.
This isn’t the first time Trump floated hosting the next G-7 meeting at one of his properties. But in France he was more specific and cited the Doral’s close proximity to the Miami airport as a selling point.
But hey, El Segundo is close to an airport, too. It has hotels. How about Santa Ana? It has John Wayne Airport (the right-wingers can genuflect at the statue), and there’s a non-Trump hotel nearby on Upper Newport Bay.
No one can say they didn’t see this coming. The Times editorial board weighed in on it during the campaign (I’ve tossed a few stones myself), about how Trump could become the most-compromised president in U.S. history. His campaign spent at least $12.8 million at Trump businesses.
And Trump’s fixation on the Federal Reserve and his demand that it cut interest rates despite low unemployment, stable prices and a growing economy? The Washington Post reported recently that Trump could save a ton in interest on $346 million in outstanding business loans — including for the Doral property — as the rates drop.
Is that why he’s pushing Fed Chairman Jerome H. Powell? Only the president knows, but it doesn’t take a cynic to see the problems with having the nation’s chief executive making decisions for our common good (actually, we’re still waiting for that to happen) and his own family business.
And with the exception of a few voices — such as that of Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania and a rival for the 2016 Republican nomination — Republicans have been silent.
Given that a large majority of Republican voters still support the president (though not as many as he claims), it’s understandable that Trump’s fellow elected officials are giving him a pass. Professional courtesy, as it were, among people who put their self-interest ahead of the nation’s.
— Scott Martelle, who joined the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board in 2014, is a veteran journalist and author of six history books.