President Donald Trump suggested that Vice President Mike Pence stay at his Irish golf club on an official trip funded by taxpayer dollars, Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short told reporters Tuesday.
Pence, who is traveling with his wife, sister, and mother, is staying at the president’s golf club in Doonbeg, Ireland, during his visit to the country. Rather than stay in Dublin, where he is set for a day of meetings and events with Irish officials, Pence is making the back-and-forth trip from Doonbeg to Dublin, more than an hour flight each way.
Originally, Pence was scheduled to conclude his trip in Doonbeg, where he has familial ties, after attending World War II commemoration ceremonies in Poland.
On whether the president asked Pence to stay at his Irish golf club, Short said: “I don’t think it was a request, like a command. … 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’s where the Pence family is from,” Short said before describing the president’s suggestion. “It’s like, ‘Well, you should stay at my place.'”
“It wasn’t like a ‘you must,'” Short added. “It wasn’t like, ‘You have to.’ It’s a facility that could accommodate the team. Keep in mind, the Secret Service has protected that facility for him, too, so they sort of know the realities, they know the logistics around that facility.”
Short said the president was not having Pence stay at the resort for free, insisting that the club was the only facility in Doonbeg that could accommodate the vice president’s entourage. He said he didn’t have a cost estimate yet.
“We always explore lower cost options, which is why, you know, you have basically different footprints for this trip as well,” Short said. “But when you’re in Doonbeg tonight and you’re with the vice president on some of the official visits he’s also doing, you’ll also see there are not a lot of options in that community.”
After speaking to reporters, Short told a New York Times reporter that Pence is “personally paying all family expenses.”
Speaking with reporters later Tuesday, Pence said he understood “political attacks by Democrats” regarding his stay at Trump’s resort.
“But 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 added. “We checked it with the State Department. They approved us staying there.”
The president has come under scrutiny for using taxpayer dollars at his properties both in the U.S. and overseas. Last month, Trump even suggested that next year’s G-7 summit should be hosted at his Miami golf resort, insisting he would not profit off such a venture.
Since taking office, the president has spent roughly 300 days at Trump properties, according to an NBC News count. Ahead of his inauguration, Trump chose to turn control of his company over to his two adult sons and a senior Trump Organization executive rather than divest from his large portfolio.