If you are looking for an indication of whether the Republican Party intends to stand by President Trump through impeachment, look no further.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) announced plans this week to host its winter meeting at the Trump National Doral Miami, the storied Florida golf resort famous for its difficult Blue Monster course.
The meeting, held in January, promises to bring together party activists and elected officials and, given the venue, an appearance by the president/property owner-in-chief seems likely.
The timing is, of course, eyebrow-raising. The meeting may well occur right before, or even during, an impeachment trial in the Senate, should the House of Representatives vote on Articles of Impeachment before the end of the year.
In a move that will surely drive good-government types bonkers, sitting senators—who will serve as jurors in any impeachment trial—may find themselves checking into a hotel operated by the man whose fate they will soon decide.
For its part, the RNC repeats a line often made by the president himself, which is that the resort is self-evidently the perfect venue for an important meeting.
“The media is obsessed with our spending at Trump properties and has covered it ad nauseam,” RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens told the New York Times. “As we have stated multiple times, we continue to hold events at them because they have fantastic service and secure spaces that fit our needs.”
Indeed, the RNC has been one of the Doral’s most loyal and lucrative clients, spending more nearly $85,000 this year and more than $600,000 at the property in 2018. (That year’s RNC event was particularly inauspicious, as party chair Ronna McDaniel vowed to repel any “Blue Wave” in that year’s midterm elections. Republicans ultimately lost 41 seats, and the Democrats regained control of the House.)
The venue selection this time around is not only provocative due to impeachment, but also because the Doral was at the center of a just-barely-passed controversy over next year’s G7 summit, which the U.S. is set to host.
The White House initially announced that the summit would take place at the Doral, before howls of protest forced them to back track. (In trying to explain the episode, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney averred that President Trump “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 the absolute best show, the best visit that he possibly could.”)
The self-dealing in that case was plain and, critics argued, a textbook violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause. But the president was reportedly surprised and stung by the blowback. He tweeted:
Of course, there is no law forbidding the RNC from holding its event wherever it wants, but the sense of self-dealing is no less plain in this case. The optics are what they are.
And that may be the point: The president’s defense in the impeachment inquiry has not, so far, been to deny any of the allegations that he tried to use the powers of his office for personal, political gain, but rather to assert that any blending of agendas is simply standard operating procedure in the rough-and-tumble business of politics. It’s no big deal. When asked whether the White House suggested a quid pro quo to the president of the Ukraine, Mulvaney said in a press conference, “We do that all the time.”
Already, some supporters and allies of the president have echoed this talking point. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, for example, said, “There’s just nothing impeachable that warrants the death penalty for the president.”
The party, at this point, seems to be coalescing around this point of view. If the RNC is ready to dismiss allegations of cronyism and conflicts of interest, hosting its next big event, in the middle of impeachment, at the president’s hotel seems like a pretty good way of demonstrating that.
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