Vice presidential trips abroad don't typically generate controversy, but Mike Pence managed to buck the norm on his visit to Ireland. The big issue is the decision to stay at President Trump's golf resort in Doonbeg, though Pence's hosts were upset for other reasons. One columnist even drew a comparison to a really unpleasant surprise from a houseguest. A look at the details:
- The resort: Pence and his entourage stayed two nights at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg. On Friday, two House committees—the judiciary and oversight panels—launched investigations into the propriety of that decision, reports Fox News. The question is whether it might violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution if Trump benefited financially. “Pence is just the latest Republican elected official to enable President Trump’s violations of the constitution,” said Nancy Pelosi.
- The controversy: Doonbeg is on the west coast and Pence had meetings in Dublin on the east coast. He used Air Force 2 to fly to Dublin and back, notes the Washington Post. The White House maintains that staying at the resort made sense for security reasons because it was previously vetted. More personally, Pence is Irish-American, and he has relations in Doonbeg.
- Shifting explanation: So did Trump ask Pence to stay at his resort? “I don’t think it was a request, like a command,” Pence chief of staff Marc Short said on Tuesday. “I think that it was a suggestion.” Soon after, Pence's office clarified, per the Wall Street Journal: “At no time did the President direct our office to stay at his Doonbeg resort and any reporting to the contrary is false.” When reporters asked Trump if had indeed made a suggestion, he replied, "I don't suggest anything." He added that he had no involvement in the decision.
- Pence's defense: “If you have a chance to get to Doonbeg, you’ll find it’s a fairly small place, and the opportunity to stay at the Trump National in Doonbeg, to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel, made it logical,” he said Tuesday at a press conference in Dublin.
- Other controversy: During Pence's news conference with Irish leader Leo Varadkar, Pence made clear that the US supports Boris Johnson and Brexit, and he urged Ireland to "negotiate in good faith" on its northern border toward a deal that "respects the United Kingdom's sovereignty." As the Guardian notes, this did not go over well. Columnist Daniel McConnell of the Irish Examiner, for example, accused Pence of "having the nerve to humiliate his hosts."
- Quite a line: McConnell's criticism was nothing compared to that of Miriam Lord in the Irish Times: It was "like pulling out all the stops for a much-anticipated visitor to your home and thinking it has been a great success until somebody discovers he shat on the new carpet in the spare room, the one you bought specially for him."
- Iceland: Later on his trip, in Iceland, the conservative Pence was met with a notable LGBT presence, notes the Independent. Iceland's president even wore a rainbow bracelet during their meeting. And Pence's large security detail, complete with snipers on rooftops, seemed to catch the small nation off guard, per the Washington Post.
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