Vice President Mike Pence and his staff are defending his decision to stay at one of President Donald Trump's properties while in Ireland amid criticism by Democrats that he's enriching Trump at taxpayers' expense. Outside the U.S. ambassador's residence in Dublin, Pence responded to a question about his stay.
"I understand political attacks by Democrats. 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 Trump National in Doonbeg to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel made it logical," he said. "We checked it with the State Department, they approved us staying there."
Pence flew from Doonbeg to Dublin for meetings Tuesday morning and will return to Doonbeg again in the evening for dinner at a pub where he once worked. His great-grandmother lived in Doonbeg.
Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, said Tuesday that the decision to stay atin Doonbeg was made at the president's "suggestion" and that Pence and his entourage are not staying free of charge.
Short told reporters during the trip that when Pence's team was going through details of the trip, they noted the Pence family originally hails from Doonbeg.
"It's like, 'Well, you should stay at my place,'" Short attempted to explain.
Pence told reporters about the personal appeal Doonbeg holds for him.
"To be able to be here, to reaffirm our commitment to the Republic of Ireland but at the same time to have an opportunity to connect to the roots of my family...I think supports the relationship between the U.S. and Ireland," said Pence.
He added, "I was pleased to have the opportunity to return to that family hometown and stay here and not just on a personal level but to do it in a way that helps me celebrate with the people of Ireland."
Mr. Trump's property Doonbeg is on the opposite side of Ireland from Dublin — about 180 miles away. The Trump organization is presumably benefiting from the vice president's stay, which includes his staff and Secret Service. Staying in Doonbeg is also incurring taxpayer costs for the flight back and forth between Doonbeg and Dublin.
"We always explore lower cost options, which is why, you know, you have basically different footprints for this trip as well. 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," Short explained.
Pence is traveling with his wife, his mother and his sister. Short said that Pence is personally covering the travel costs for his mother and his sister.
Pence is commuting into Dublin for meetings with Irish officials.
Ben Tracy and Emily Tillett contributed reporting.