The Trump administration’s corruption comes in many, many, many forms, but rarely is the public presented with such a crystalline, irrefutable example of self-dealing than Mike Pence’s recent decision to stay at Trump National in Doonbeg, a resort nearly 200 miles away from the meetings in Dublin that brought the vice president to Ireland.
On Tuesday, Pence addressed the backlash to the decision, explaining to reporters that Ireland is “family” and how it’s “deeply humbling” for him to be able to visit the hometown of his great-grandmother, who lived next to a castle, and to eat at the pub he worked at when he was just a 22-year-old lad. “To be able to connect to the roots of my family I think supports the relationship between the United States and Ireland,” the vice president said with his trademark over-the-top earnestness. Very moving stuff.
But, uhh, what about the corruption?
“I understand political attacks by Democrats,” Pence said eventually. “But if you get a chance to get to Doonbeg you’ll find it’s a very small place, and the opportunity to stay at Trump National in Doonbeg, to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel made it logical.”
.@VP Pence in Ireland: "If you have a chance to get to Doonbeg you'll find it's a fairly small place, the opportunity to stay at Trump National in Doonbeg, to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel made it logical." pic.twitter.com/yqOSjKt9M3
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 3, 2019
Pence’s excuse, then, seems to be that it was so much easier for the Secret Service to accommodate him in Doonbeg than it would have been somewhere near Dublin that it made more logistical sense to stay 181 miles away and fly to his business in Ireland’s capital. The same reasoning was offered by Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, who claimed that Trump National at Doonbeg was “a facility that could accommodate the team” and of a size optimal for the “Secret Service [to] protect us.”
This rationale was quickly debunked by Politico, which spoke to former Secret Service officials who explained that location has little to do with the ability to offer protection. “The Secret Service is capable of providing protection anywhere and anytime as it has over its history including under arduous circumstances like combat zones,” said former agent Donald Mihalek. Another former agent, Jonathan Wackrow, said the Secret Service “does not typically have a preference” where the president or vice president stay when traveling abroad. Wackrow also poked holes in the argument that the Secret Service’s familiarity with Doonbeg was advantageous. “It can make it harder because complacency kills,” he said. “The moment you become complacent, the potential for someone to get harmed is much greater.”
But on Wednesday, the vice president’s office changed course, arguing that the decision was actually not about security detail logistics, but about finding “accommodations near the vice president’s ancestral hometown.”
This is entering congressional hearing territory, because it’s:
• different from the explanation Pence’s chief gave
• an easy to understand scandal
• seemingly a waste of taxpayer dollars that goes into Trump’s pocket
• an example of Pence’s sycophancy
• potentially corrupt https://t.co/LswNjewWlo
— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) September 4, 2019
In other words, there isn’t a good, non-corrupt explanation for why Pence stayed at Doonbeg. Short even acknowledged that Trump suggested his vice president stay there during his visit to Ireland. He made sure to clarify, however, that Trump didn’t demand it, as if the lack of a directive somehow absolves the administration of wrongdoing.
Regardless, Americans are paying the president so that the vice president can visit the town where his great-grandmother once lived next to a castle. This is corruption, plain and simple.