President Trump was genuinely surprised at the swift criticism and rebukes over his decision to host the G7 summit at his own resort, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday.
Mulvaney spoke to Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace hours after the president walked back the decision to host next summer’s high-profile gathering of world leaders at the Trump National Doral Miami. The decision had been criticized by Republicans as well as Democrats, who accused Trump of attempting to use the presidency for personal profit.
During the Fox News interview, Mulvaney said that Trump “was honestly surprised at the level of pushback” and defended the president’s desire to host the G7 at his hotel.
“At the end of the day, 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,” Mulvaney said. “I think we were all surprised at the level of pushback.”
In tweets Saturday night, Trump said he “thought he was doing something very good for our country” by using his own property for the meeting. After blaming “hostile media” and anger from Democrats, he said that the US would host the 2020 summit at another site.
Mulvaney had first announced that the president would use his own property for the international gathering at a rare and disastrous press briefing last week. The White House has argued that using Trump’s Miami-area resort would save Americans “millions of dollars,” and, given its proximity to the airport, its size, and its “tremendous ballrooms and meeting rooms,” the Doral would be a smart choice.
But the announcement triggered condemnation and alarm, with both Republicans and Democrats expressing concern that Trump was using a storied, international summit to potentially enrich his own business — a move that was unethical if not illegal. And experts added it was unlikely the resort could meet the extraordinary security needs of the meeting.
In Sunday’s interview, Wallace appeared shocked and asked why Trump still considered himself to “be in the hospitality business” given that he “is the president of the United States.”
“That’s his background,” Mulvaney said. “He wanted to put on a show. He wanted to take care of folks. He is in the hotel business, or at least he was before he was president.”
Wallace also pressed Mulvaney on other comments the chief of staff had made in last week’s press conference: that the Trump administration had withheld aid from Ukraine in exchange for assistance investigating a conspiracy theory regarding the Democratic National Committee’s email server.
Mulvaney continued Sunday to deny he said there was any type of quid pro quo arrangement, in spite of his earlier words.
“Did I have the perfect press conference? No,” he said.
He added he and the president have not discussed his resignation. CNN reported Sunday that there have been efforts within the administration to replace Mulvaney.
“I still think I’m doing a pretty good job as the chief of staff, and I think the president agrees,” Mulvaney said.