Violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause have been an ongoing concern since Donald Trump moved into the White House. But the latest scandals appear to take this administration’s grifting to a new level.
According to a report in Politico, Congress is investigating alleged stopovers made by an Air National Guard crew last spring at Trump’s Turnberry resort in Scotland. The five-person crew aboard a C-17 military transport plane was headed to the Middle East, and both on the way there and on the way back, the crew apparently stayed at Trump’s financially struggling resort.
That would be abnormal in any administration, and while some in Washington may have been quick to brush off the Trump’s family’s other alleged emoluments violations, this story—if true—won’t be so easily dismissed, as it involves using the military to personally enrich the president and his family.
In June, members of the House Oversight Committee sent then-acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan a letter requesting documents related to Defense Department expenditures at Trump Turnberry or Trump International Golf Links, as well as communications between the Defense Department and Trump’s businesses. It also sought information regarding expenditures at the Glasgow Prestwick Airport.
The letter noted that Trump spent “hundreds of millions of dollars” to buy and renovate the Turnberry golf course two years before the 2016 presidential election in the U.S. “To date, the property has continued to suffer financial losses and has not returned a profit for the President or his companies,” it added.
Lawmakers also pointed out that the Glasgow Prestwick Airport “has lost millions” since its purchase by the Scottish government in 2013. In light of this, it’s curious that the Pentagon since October 2017 has spent $11 million on fuel purchase orders at the airport, when fuel is much cheaper at U.S. military bases.
The crew of the C-17 military transport plane was headed to Kuwait to deliver supplies, Politico reported. Normally, such flights would be routed through one of about four U.S. air bases in Germany, the U.K., Spain, or Italy. There was no apparent reason it needed to stop at Trump’s property in Scotland.
One crew member was so struck by the choice of hotel — markedly different than the Marriotts and Hiltons the 176th maintenance squadron is used to — that he texted someone close to him and told him about the stay, sending a photo and noting that the crew’s per diem allowance wasn’t enough to cover food and drinks at the ritzy resort.
As MSNBC pointed out, the Glasgow Prestwick Airport is key to the financial success of Trump’s Turnberry property.
A senior Democratic aide on the Oversight Committee told Politico that the Pentagon hasn’t produced “a single document” in response to the investigation.
According to the news site, Trump’s Turnberry resort lost $4.5 million in 2017, but miraculously boosted its revenue the next year by $3 million. Funny how that works.
This latest news follows another scandal this week involving the administration and one of Trump’s properties. During a recent trip overseas, Vice President Mike Pence stayed at Trump’s golf resort in Doonbeg, on the southwest coast of Ireland, despite his meetings occurring in Dublin, on the other side of the country, some 180 miles away.
That prompted a firestorm of criticism, and numerous contradictory explanations by Pence, Trump, and their aides. Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, first told reporters that Trump had suggested Pence stay at the president’s resort, a statement Pence’s own office later denied.
Trump denied any role, saying, “I had no involvement, other than it’s a great place,” The Washington Post reported. “It wasn’t my idea for Mike to go there.”
Pence then claimed he wanted to stay in Doonbeg because he had distant relatives there. Uh-huh. Taxpayers footed the bill for all of this.
In response, the House Oversight Committee is investigating this trip, too. On Thursday, Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings sent a letter to Short seeking documents and costs related to the trip.
“The Committee does not believe that U.S. taxpayer funds should be used to personally enrich President Trump, his family, and his companies,” Cummings wrote.
The committee also sent letters to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secret Service Director James M. Murray, and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, the Post reported.