The Republican National Committee will hold their annual winter meeting at President Donald Trump’s National Doral Miami resort in Florida, CNN has learned.
The move comes one month after Trump abruptly reversed his decision to host next year’s G7 summit at the same property in south Florida, following criticism from both parties. A spokesman for the RNC said the contract to hold the meeting at Doral was signed in March.
RNC staff sent an email to members Thursday with a link urging members to book rooms at the Trump National Doral for the late January summit.
The RNC has a history of hosting events and fundraisers at Trump-owned properties. When asked by CNN in 2018 about RNC spending at Trump properties, an RNC official said donors enjoy visiting Trump properties, and also pointed to security, convenience and price as factors in the committee’s decision-making. The official added that Trump properties are often cheaper to rent than other venues, noting that the Federal Election Commission demands the RNC receive market rates.
The RNC has spent more than $1.5 million at Trump-owned properties since 2015, according to a CNN analysis of FEC data, though an official said they typically do not hold RNC meetings and retreats at Trump properties, pointing to spending at Four Seasons hotels.
“The media is obsessed with our spending at Trump properties and has covered it ad nauseam. 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,” Michael Ahrens, a spokesman for the RNC, said in a statement to CNN.
After he was elected President, Trump placed his business into a trust controlled by his adult sons, Don Jr. and Eric, but did not liquidate his holdings or let an independent manager handle the trust without his knowledge – the approach favored by past presidents and by ethics experts, because it separates the President’s personal profit motive from his decisions on behalf of the government.
The arrangement has drawn criticism from ethics watchdogs, who say it allows for the appearance of a conflict of interest. And the spending at Trump properties reported to the FEC only covers a portion of spending by political actors at these properties – those activities related to federal elections in 2018.
In October, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney made the announcement that the upcoming G7 would be held at Trump’s Doral resort – only for Trump to reverse the decision on Twitter 48 hours later.
The administration had argued the event would be run “at cost,” or without profit, by the Trump National property because of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which largely prohibits the President from accepting gifts and money from foreign governments.
But it is not clear that simply avoiding a profit would keep the administration from running afoul of the emoluments clause. The administration also had not clarified the details of how it would determine what “at cost” would be.