President Trump’s speech at South Korea’s National Assembly was meant to be a show of solidarity among the United States, South Korea and other Asian nations in the face of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Trump started by praising South Korea for its many achievements since the end of the Korean War in the 1950s, touching on technology, music, education and engineering.
Then, he arrived at golf.
“Korean golfers are some of the best on Earth,” Trump said. “In fact, and you know what I’m going to say, the Women’s U.S. Open was held this year at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., and it just happened to be won by a great Korean golfer.”
“Congratulations. Now that’s something. That’s really something,” Trump said to the applauding audience of foreign dignitaries.
Trump’s remarks about his Bedminister golf course were broadcast live in the United States on Tuesday evening, as well as across parts of Asia.
Ethics experts have criticized Trump in the past for using his position as a public official to promote his private businesses, which he has not sold off.
“President Trump’s comments were disappointing, but what we’ve come to expect from his administration,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director of the watchdog group CREW — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“The reason presidents divest and place their assets in a blind trust is so that Americans would never questions whether they’re working for the American people or for their own personal profits,” Libowitz said.
“With Trump, it seems like there’s no official business of the government that he thinks is inappropriate to plug his businesses. There is a gulf between what is technically legal for the president to do, and what is ethically and morally right,” he added.
Trump is currently being sued by CREW for allegedly violating the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits U.S. officials from accepting “gifts, emoluments, offices or titles from foreign states without the consent of the United States Congress.”
Critics say that by promoting his properties to foreign officials, he is, in effect, encouraging them to steer money to his pocket. The White House maintains that routine business transactions, say, paying for a hotel bill and a round of golf at a Trump property, are not improper.
“No one would have thought, when the Constitution was written, that paying your hotel bill was an emolument,” Trump’s attorney Sheri Dillon said at a press conference in January. “Instead, it would have been thought of as a value-for-value exchange. Not a gift. Not a title. And not an emolument.”