U.S. Vice President Mike Pence drew criticism from Democrats on Tuesday when he began a two-day visit to Ireland with meetings in the capital, Dublin, but stayed at a hotel owned by President Donald Trump almost 300 kilometers (180 miles) away.
Pence flew to Dublin on Tuesday after spending the night at the Trump International Golf Club in Doonbeg on the west coast of Ireland. The hotel also hosted the Trump family during a short trip to Ireland by the president in June.
Asked if Trump had suggested Pence stay at the property, the vice president’s chief of staff, Marc Short, told journalists, “I think that it was a suggestion.”
“It’s like when we went through the trip it’s like, `Well, he’s going to Doonbeg because that is where his family is from, it’s like `oh, you should stay at my place’,” Short said. “It wasn’t like a `you must’. It wasn’t like a `you have to’.”
California Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu on Twitter accused Pence of “funneling taxpayer money” to Trump by staying at the hotel. “You took an oath to the Constitution, not to @realDonaldTrump,” Lieu said.
The Democratic National Committee also chimed in, saying in a post on its DNC War Room Twitter feed that Pence’s choice of hotel meant “your tax dollars: making the Trump family richer.”
Short said the original plan had been to hold meetings in Dublin and go to Doonbeg afterwards. A last-minute schedule change meant Pence would need to visit Dublin after over-nighting in Ireland, and no hotel in Dublin had been properly vetted.
Pence’s stay was paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, but the vice president personally paid for his sister and mother, who traveled with him, Short said. Pence’s great-grandmother was from Doonbeg.
Trump has retained ownership of his hotels, golf courses and other businesses, but he gave control of the businesses to his sons shortly before he took office in January 2017.
Former government ethics officials and watchdog groups say Trump has failed to put safeguards in place to ensure that he does not directly profit from his actions as president.
(Reporting by Alex Alper, writing by Conor Humphries, editing by Larry King)