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The Journal Gazette

  • U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, his wife Karen Pence and his mother Nancy Pence Fritsch, right arrive in Doonbeg, Ireland, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Speaking to reporters in Dublin, where he spent the day, Pence spoke about his personal connection to the village of Doonbeg – the site of both the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel as well as family history. (Jackob King/PA via AP)

Thursday, September 05, 2019 1:00 am


Doonbeg gaffe

Pence's political instincts fail him in Ireland

Like any astute vice president, Mike Pence has put some distance between himself and his president, particularly on issues that might resonate with Pence's conservative base. Visiting Poland Monday in President Donald Trump's stead, for instance, the vice president condemned Russian aggression and election interference just a few days after Trump urged G7 leaders to let bygones be bygones and welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin back into their fold.

Pence's independent take on crucial foreign policy questions is refreshing in an administration where dissent isn't always tolerated.

Which makes it all the more surprising that Pence has allowed himself to become part of the ongoing controversy about the propriety of using Trump-family-owned properties for government-related business.

This week, during a swing through Ireland on his European trip, Pence, his family and a retinue of aides and Secret Service agents stayed the night at the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Doonbeg.

Pence had intended to stay in Dublin, where the vice president had meetings scheduled, and make a side visit to Doonbeg, where his great-grandmother grew up. But spokesman Marc Short said a last-minute schedule change led them to stay at the Trump resort. Short also acknowledged, though, that Trump had suggested Pence stay at his establishment when the trip was being planned.

After a night at the resort, the vice president flew to Dublin, 180 miles away by car, for his meetings. The round trip consumed five hours – roughly like staying at the Trump International Hotel in Chicago in order to attend a meeting in Fort Wayne, then going back to your Windy City hotel that night.

Trump's businesses are run by his sons, but the whole family clearly benefits when government officials or foreign leaders stay at his properties.

The issues raised by such transactions go beyond partisan politics. The U.S. Constitution's foreign emoluments clause prohibits federal employees from accepting foreign gifts without permission from Congress, and a passage on domestic emoluments says the president may not take domestic fees or gifts beyond his or her already-established salary from the federal government or any of the states.

Other presidents of both parties have taken pains to avoid even the appearance of violating those prohibitions. Trump, who recently pitched another of his golf resorts in Doral, Florida, for the next G7 meeting, seems oblivious to such concerns.

Adroit at distancing himself from some controversial aspects of the Trump White House, Pence fell into the sand trap this time.