There are plenty of fine hotels in Dublin that could accommodate Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Ireland, but the Republican and his family have instead decided to stay at Donald Trump’s luxury golf course – which is three hours away by car.
Or to put that in an American context, imagine a foreign official having meetings in Chicago and staying in Indianapolis.
And whose bright idea was this? According to Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff, it was Donald Trump himself who made the recommendation.
Pence, who is traveling with his wife, sister, and mother, is staying at the president’s Doonbeg, Ireland golf club during his trip to the country. Rather than stay in Dublin, where he is set for a day of meetings and events with Irish officials, Pence is making the back-and-forth trip from Doonbeg to Dublin, a more than one hour flight each way. Originally, Pence was scheduled to conclude his trip in Doonbeg, where the vice president has familial ties. Now, Pence is flying back-and-forth between Dublin and Doonbeg before other European visits.
On whether the president asked Pence to stay at his Irish golf club, Short said: “I don’t think it was a request, like a command … I think that it was a suggestion.”
As the NBC News report added, Short quoted the president having said to Pence, “Well, you should stay at my place.”
The VP’s aide added, “It wasn’t like a, ‘You must.’ It wasn’t like, ‘You have to.’ It’s a facility that could accommodate the team. Keep in mind, the Secret Service has protected that facility for him, too, so they sort of know the realities, they know the logistics around that facility.”
During his congressional testimony earlier this year, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, told lawmakers the president “doesn’t give you orders. He speaks in code, and I understand the code because I’ve been around him for a decade.”
This came to mind reading about Trump’s “suggestion” that his vice president stay at the Trump-owned venue on the other side of Ireland.
Marc Short later emphasized that Pence is “personally paying all family expenses” as part of the visit to Ireland. That’s nice, although I’m not sure that fully addresses the larger problem.
For one thing, the vice president indirectly putting money in the president’s pocket doesn’t negate concerns about corruption; it accentuates them.
For another, Pence may very well be “personally paying all family expenses,” but when leading American officials travel abroad, there are all kinds of non-family expenses associated with the trip. In the case of the vice president, for example, he travels with a sizable staff, as well as Secret Service agents.
I’m not privy to the details of Pence’s expense reports, but it seems unlikely that he’d cover all of the costs of housing and transporting the entire official entourage.
As for the obvious larger context, there’s no shortage of scandals surrounding the Trump presidency, but his eagerness to profit off his office is among the most brazen. Eric Trump declared a while back, “There are lines that we would never cross, and that’s mixing business with anything government.”
His father has repeatedly ignored that vow, and continues to do so without hesitation.