President Donald Trump on Monday denied any involvement in a shift in military practice that has allowed Air Force crews to overnight at his luxury Turnberry golf resort in Scotland.
“I know nothing about an Air Force plane landing at an airport (which I do not own and have nothing to do with) near Turnberry Resort (which I do own) in Scotland, and filling up with fuel, with the crew staying overnight at Turnberry (they have good taste!),” Trump said in a tweet, claiming that the decision for crews to overnight at the luxury seaside resort has “NOTHING TO DO WITH ME.”
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The U.S. Air Force on Sunday ordered a world-wide review of how the branch chooses overnight accomodations for its crews following a POLITICO report revealing that the House Oversight Committee was investigating an uptick in unusual stops there — stops that included overnight stays at Trump Turnberry by Air Force crews in the last four years.
Typically, Air Force crews will stop at U.S. military bases elsewhere in Europe to refuel, where it would be cheaper to do so. But according to a letter the Oversight Committee sent the Pentagon in June, the military has spent $11 million on fuel at the Prestwick Airport — the closest to Trump Turnberry — since October 2017.
The committee’s investigation, which began in April of this year, is probing whether the stops pose a conflict of interest for the president and whether the military is helping to prop up Trump’s resort, which had been losing money. An aide for the committee told POLITICO that the Pentagon has not responded to their inquiries as part of the probe.
Though Air Force officials have insisted that the crews’ stops to refuel at the Prestwick Airport appeared to adhere to existing guidelines for military stopovers, the agency has also said it will determine whether or not it is appropriate for members to stay at properties owned by the commander in chief.
Officials also said that in the case of an April stay by a crew at Turnberry, which sparked the Oversight investigation, the members “used the closest available and least expensive accommodations to the airfield within the crews’ allowable hotel rates.”
The crew, which was headed to Kuwait on a routine trip to deliver supplies, stopped in Glasglow, which has no U.S. military base. On similar trips to the Middle East, crews more frequently landed at U.S. air bases in Germany and Spain to refuel, according to one person familiar with the trips, with occasional stops in the Azores and once in Sigonella, Italy.
The revelations sparked immediate backlash, and they come as the Trump administration has already come under fire for attempting to divert Pentagon funding to build the president’s long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Accusations that Trump’s properties are unfairly profiting off of his administration have dogged the president since entering office. Trump still owns his business but placed his holdings in a trust designed to hold assets for his benefit. He can receive money from the trust at any time.
Ethics officials and lawmakers have raised concerns about foreign officials staying at Trump hotels, noting that Trump supporters and industry groups regularly hold events at Trump-owned locations. Trump is also considering hosting next year’s G-7 summit of world leaders at his Doral resort in Miami, a potential financial boon for the property, and has previously stayed at the Turnberry property during an official visit to the United Kingdom.
Revenue increased by $3.1 million at Trump Turnberry in 2018, which Trump visited in July of that year, according to Trump’s most recent personal financial disclosure forms.
Last week, Vice President Mike Pence raised eyebrows when he stayed at Trump’s resort in Doonbeg, Ireland, during a visit there, despite its location hundreds of miles away from his meetings in Dublin. The Oversight Committee is investigating that stay as well.
Trump on Monday defended Pence’s stay at Doonbeg, writing on Twitter that he played no role in Pence’s decision to stay there despite Pence’s chief of staff telling reporters originally that Trump had suggested it.
“I had nothing to do with the decision of our great @VP Mike Pence to stay overnight at one of the Trump owned resorts in Doonbeg, Ireland,” Trump wrote. “Mike’s family has lived in Doonbeg for many years, and he thought that during his very busy European visit, he would stop and see his family!”
Anita Kumar contributed to this report.