Washington: The powerful House Oversight Committee announced on Friday it was investigating why Vice President Mike Pence decided to stay at President Donald Trump's golf resort during an official visit to Ireland.
Pence stayed at Trump's Doonbeg resort last weekend, a distant 185 miles (300km) from Dublin, where he met with top Irish officials. Pence's spokesman said they decided to stay at the Trump International Golf Links in Doonbeg at the "suggestion" of the president, rather than using a Dublin hotel, which would have likely been much cheaper, transportation-wise.
Democrat Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said it appeared that Trump was profiting personally on the vice president's trip, given all the government funds spent at the resort to house his sizable entourage. "The committee does not believe that US taxpayer funds should be used to personally enrich President Trump, his family, and his companies," Cummings said in a statement.
Cummings said the bill for the trip could be "significant," given the estimated USD 3.6 million of taxpayer money spent when Trump stayed at the Doonbeg resort in June. It was the second probe opened in the past two weeks of the White House's official use of the president's properties.
On August 28, the House Judiciary Committee announced it would investigate Trump's stated plan to use his Trump National Doral Miami golf club to host the G7 summit next year. Lawmakers have repeatedly alleged that the Trump Organization, the billionaire president's real estate group, is reaping significant profits from his time in the White House. They say he appears to be violating the US Constitution's ban on a president enriching himself from his office, though so far no court has supported the allegation.
The White House denied Pence was ordered by Trump to stay at Doonbeg. "I don't think it was a request, like a command. ... I think that it was a suggestion," Pence spokesman Mark Short said earlier this week. "Well, you should stay at my place," Trump said, according to Short. On Wednesday, however, Trump denied it was his idea.
"We never spoke about it," Trump said. "I had no involvement, other than it's a great place," he said, noting that one of Pence's ancestors came from the area. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren called on the State Department to explain how Pence's trip was planned. Pence's trip "is just another example of this admin's open corruption & how it enriches the president," she said in a tweet.