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BIARRITZ, France -- President Donald Trump said Monday that he was likely to hold next year's Group of Seven summit for world leaders at his golf resort in Doral, Fla.

The past two meetings hosted by the United States have been held at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, and on a resort island in Georgia. But Trump said his advisers "went to places all over the country" and determined that his golf club was the ideal location for the event, in part because of its proximity to the Miami International Airport.

"My people looked at 12 sites, all good," Trump said. "But some were two hours from an airport, some were four hours -- I mean, they were so far away. Some didn't allow this, or they didn't allow that. With Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings. We call them bungalows. They each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms with magnificent views.

"We have incredible conference rooms, incredible restaurants, it's such a natural," Trump added. "We wouldn't even have to do the work that they did here [in Biarritz]. ... And we have many hundreds of acres, so that in terms of parking, in terms of all of the things that you need. The ballrooms are among the biggest in Florida and the best."

Trump said the golf club was set up in such a way that "each country can have their own villa or their own bungalow."

Government ethics experts argued Monday that Trump's proposal is a conflict of interest. Dignitaries who visit Washington do not have to stay at Trump's hotel there, they said, but visitors to the summit would have no choice but to spend money at his property.

"It's ethics violation squared," said Kathleen Clark of Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

Added Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission, "This is him making it perfectly mandatory that they stay at his resort."

The president rejected the idea that he would profit by steering six world leaders, their aides and international news agencies to a resort he owns.

"From my standpoint, I'm not going to make any money," Trump said. "In my opinion, I'm not going to make any money. I don't want to make money. I don't care about making money. If I want to make money, I wouldn't worry about $3 billion to $5 billion," he added, arguing that he was losing that much money by being president, mostly by giving up new potential deals overseas.

The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment about how the president would avoid profiting from a summit at the club.

Despite Trump's praise for the facility, it was unclear Monday whether he had formally chosen Doral. Trump said he had not, though after he spoke, the White House's official Twitter account posted a clip of his announcement and called Doral "the location of the next [G-7] summit."

White House representatives declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County, where Doral is located, said the White House had not notified them of any decision.

Doral's finances were reviewed last year after tax consultant Jessica Vachiratevanurak, who had been hired by Trump, argued that the property's tax bill should be lowered. She told a Miami-Dade County official that Doral was "severely underperforming" other resorts in the area.

Vachiratevanurak presented figures showing that the Trump resort's net operating income -- the amount left over after expenses are paid -- had fallen by 69 percent in 2017 from the previous year.

"There is some negative connotation that is associated with the brand," she said.

The Trump Organization has disputed that, saying the real cause of the drop in revenue is fear of the Zika virus and hurricanes. The club's revenue rebounded slightly in 2018, according to Trump's presidential financial disclosures.

The Doral club is a keystone of the Trump Organization, generating the most revenue among its 17 golf properties. Trump purchased the 643-room club in 2012, taking out $125 million in loans from Deutsche Bank and extensively renovating the property.

Information for this article was contributed by Josh Dawsey, David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Partlow, Anne Gearan, Alice Crites and Jonathan O'Connell of The Washington Post; and by Bernard Condon, Adriana Gomez Licon and Steven Wine of The Associated Press.

A Section on 08/27/2019

Print Headline: Trump talks up his resort for next G-7


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