Any Republican excusing Donald Trump's massive addiction to golf, is ignoring the fact that these games are played at golf clubs that he owns, and that he profits from. Trump is advertising his properties and using the presidency to advance his brand, period.
Jack Kingston followed the well-trod path of pretending that because Trump is already rich, he can't possibly be interested in more money and therefore isn't guilty of emoluments violations or conflicts of interest.
But he is. And he's a total hypocrite about it, too.
CUOMO: President Trump spent July 4th at one of his golf clubs. As we've seen, President Trump loves golf, except when President Obama played it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obama, it was reported today, played 250 rounds of golf. Everything is executive order because he doesn't have enough time because he's playing so much golf.
I'm going to be working for you, I'm not going to have time to play golf.
He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods. This guy plays more golf than people on the PGA Tour.
I love golf. I think it's one of the greats, but I don't have time.
But if I were in the White House, I don't think I would ever see Turnberry again. I don't think I'd ever see Doral again.
But I'm not going to be playing much golf, believe me. If I win this, I'm not going to be playing much golf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Well, that was then, this was now. Of President Trump's 165 days in office, 36 of them, as best we can tell, have been spent at Trump golf properties.
But, of course, this is not about golf. It's about transparency and hypocrisy.
Let's talk about it with CNN political commentator and former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, Jack Kingston, and CNN contributor, Ambassador Norm Eisen. He is a former White House ethics czar and Brookings Institution fellow.
Gentlemen, great to see you.
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Jack --
NORM EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Good morning.
Jack, do you see any hypocrisy in President Trump's stance?
KINGSTON: I definitely see a two-step but I have to say, Alisyn, this is still red meat for the red meat crowd. We jumped on Obama. Obama spent $85 million on total family vacations during his eight years. President Bush caught grief every time he went to Crawford. Reagan caught grief when he went out to California to his ranch.
This is par for the course. But I'll say this --
CAMEROTA: No pun intended.
KINGSTON: No, no, no pun whatsoever.
But, you know, presidents really never do vacation. They are -- they just change venues.
KINGSTON: So, wherever they are they're still conducting business and I just think that the president's found out, you just got to keep going and sometimes golf --
CAMEROTA: I mean, I hear you, Jack. I understand. I know golf, who cares really.
It's just that the numbers are striking. So, let's just pull it up so we really know what we're talking about. "The New York Times" crunched the numbers in the first 99 days in office, of President Trump's predecessors, George W. Bush played golf zero times. President Obama, who as you know, President Donald Trump said was, you know, only golfing, played it once. Bill Clinton loved golf, he played it five times. President Trump in the first 99 days, played it 19 times.
So, Jack, do you think that's noteworthy?
KINGSTON: I think it is to some degree. I mean I want to point out something about Bush, Bush actually quit playing golf because we had soldiers with boots on the ground as opposed to Obama who was playing golf when an American journalist was beheaded and that was an image nobody would want.
CAMEROTA: This is a good point. Do you think that President Trump should ratchet it back?
KINGSTON: I think as long as the economy is strong, unemployment is going down, the stock market is going up, and we're cracking down on the illegal immigration, I think that people are going to be OK with his golf. I really do.
Red meat crowds are always going to criticize whether they're Democrats or Republicans. We absolutely did it to Clinton and Obama and, you know, just part of politics.
CAMEROTA: Norm, how do you see it?
EISEN: Well, I see it a little differently from my friend Jack, Alisyn. The problem is, that none of the vacations or breaks that the others took, the other presidents took, were at their own properties. We're not just talking about the stench of hypocrisy, it does smell, it's so wrong.
But there's also the fact that Constitution does not prohibit the president to be taking in the benefits, the cash, that the government is spending on him. He's turned the presidency with 36 days at his golf properties, and 50 days in total at all of his properties into an infomercial. That's against the domestic emoluments clause.
And, Alisyn, it gets worse because that contempt and disregard for the Constitution, which by the way I think has something to do with his mid-30s approval ratings, the American people don't like it.
EISEN: It has led to a larger pattern of illegality in the Trump administration. This is not just about the hypocrisy. When you start your presidency by violating the Constitution, of course, you're going to do Muslim ban and obstruction --
CAMEROTA: But, Norm, what's illegal about him playing golf at his golf clubs?
EISEN: Well, the Constitution provides that the president's compensation shall only be limited to his official salary.
EISEN: He's forcing the federal government to spend millions of dollars -- millions of dollars --
CAMEROTA: They're spending millions at his golf courses or just to protect him?
EISEN: It's not just at his golf courses. Remember, it's 36 days at the golf courses, 50 days total.
EISEN: It's two things. One is, yes, every time the president moves, it forces spending. There's collateral spending. It forces the states --
CAMEROTA: Right, that's not illegal.
KINGSTON: That's not illegal.
EISEN: Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute.
KINGSTON: None of this is illegal.
EISEN: He's using the difference with President Trump and everybody who's preceded him, is they haven't gone to their own properties. And he's using the Oval Office as a giant infomercial.
CAMEROTA: Go ahead.
KINGSTON: He is a multi-billionaire. He's not in the presidency to make money. That's ridiculous, Norm. You know it would be illegal if he was violating the Emoluments Clause. The fact is, he's exempt from a lot of the things you are talking about. ...Attorneys General or attorneys for the states, would be suing him right and left if he were guilty of that.
EISEN: Wait a minute, Jack. [Jack clearly caught here because the AGs of Maryland and DC ARE SUING HIM.]
KINGSTON: Well, they are suing him, and it's going to be thrown out, because it's ridiculous.
-- End Transcript --
And of course....they're out of time.