Trump Says He Wasn't Trying To Promote Business By Staying At His Ireland Golf Course

Jun 6, 2019
Originally published on June 6, 2019 9:28 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Tonight President Trump is spending a second night in Ireland. It's more than 700 miles from those Normandy beaches, almost 600 miles from London. But he owns a golf course there. And NPR's Peter Overby reports that golf course has been losing money in the five years since Trump bought it and perhaps could use a bit of promotion.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Doonbeg sit above Atlantic Ocean beaches on Ireland's west coast. A promo video conjures up "Downton Abbey"-style elegance, fine food, plush beds, massages, horseback riding. And there's golf, too. When Trump first flew in from London yesterday, Ireland's prime minister, Leo Varadkar, met him at Shannon Airport. Trump told reporters why he was there.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'd love to come to Ireland and stay at Doonbeg.

OVERBY: One reporter asked, is this just about promoting your golf club?

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TRUMP: No. This trip is really about great relationships that we have with the U.K. And I really wanted to do this stop in Ireland. It was very important to me because of the relationship I have with the people and with the prime minister.

OVERBY: The airport conference was a compromise. Trump had wanted to meet at his resort, the way he's hosted Japanese Prime Minister Abe and other foreign leaders at Mar-a-Lago. Noah Bookbinder is director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. He said this back-and-forth may be a first for Trump.

NOAH BOOKBINDER: I don't recall an instance of his desire to meet at one of his properties being an issue between him and a foreign leader.

OVERBY: There's another, more common problem too - Trump lobbied to kill a wind farm that was proposed near the club. He called Varadkar, who was then minister of tourism, not prime minister. In a speech last year, Varadkar said he placed a single call and...

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LEO VARADKAR: The wind farm was never built, thus the landscape being preserved. And the president has very kindly given me credit for that. Although I do think it probably would have been refused anyway.

OVERBY: Now there's another issue. Trump wants to build a seawall to protect the shoreline next to the golf course. It's a climate change issue, according to his lawyers. He got approval, but local opponents appealed it. Resolution seems a long way off. Bookbinder points out this is just another take on the question of foreign emoluments.

BOOKBINDER: We don't want a situation where the president, in his relations with Ireland, is concerned about what the government is going to do with his resort as opposed to thinking about the interests of the United States.

OVERBY: The Constitution bars the president from accepting gifts, payments or benefits - emoluments - from a foreign government unless Congress consents. Meanwhile, taxpayers are paying for Trump's side trips to Ireland - extra travel and all the security needed to protect the resort. Irish newspapers report that Friday night bingo was cancelled at the community center near Doonbeg. It's due to the security restrictions from the president's visit. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.