WASHINGTON – The selection process for next year's G-7 summit of leading industrial nations is a stark departure from past precedents for selecting the site, former administration officials say.
Former Barack Obama and George W. Bush administration officials said the Trump Doral resort should not even have been under consideration because of the perception of conflicts of interest.
Their comments to USA TODAY came after White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's Thursday announcement that the 2020 G-7 summit of leading industrial nations would be hosted at the Trump National Resort in Doral, Fla., was met with fury from Democrats and at least one Republican senator.
In a statement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler called it "among the most brazen examples yet of the President’s corruption," and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told reporters it was not appropriate to use taxpayer dollars at a Trump resort.
In a press briefing about the administration's search process, Mulvaney argued they had used the same criteria as previous administrations, but "it became apparent at the end of that process that Doral was, by far and away – far and away – the best physical facility for this meeting."
The Trump National Doral resort is owned by the Trump Organization, a collection of business entities owned mostly by President Donald Trump, though it is unclear what degree of involvement he has in the management in the company.
"You wouldn't even look at the property because it doesn't matter if it's the best property on Earth. There's a perception of impropriety," said Johanna Maska, who handled the Obama administration's advance preparations for the 2012 G-8 in Camp David, Md.
She noted that while Hawaii and Chicago had been under consideration for the 2012 G-8, they had taken all possible steps to work with city vendors and avoid any potential conflicts of interest. Though, "I guess it's a little different when the vendor is your family," she said.
Greg Jenkins, who worked on the Bush administration's advance preparations for the 2004 G-8 in Sea Island, Ga., said that administration would have never considered holding the event at a venue like the Bush ranch in Texas.
"I mean, to be handed a list of places, like 'oh, look at that. Looks like the only place it's going to work in all of America is a place that happens to be owned by the President.' Right. Well, that's not a coincidence at all," said Greg Jenkins, who worked on the Bush administration's advance preparations for the 2004 G-8 in Sea Island, Ga.