Trump took a brief pause from his media coverage-related grievances Monday to assure netizens that he had neither no prior knowledge of nor involvement with a C-17 Globemaster III crew that seemingly went out of their way to patronize his Turnberry, Scotland, resort.
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!). NOTHING TO DO WITH ME— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2019
Trump’s assertion of innocence follows the spread of a Friday report by Politico which revealed Congress had been investigating details surrounding a seven-member C-17 crew’s stay at the luxury waterside resort during a routine trip to and from Kuwait earlier this year.
Citing a House Oversight Committee letter to the Pentagon from June, Politico reported that the USAF has spent approximately $11 million on fuel at the Prestwick Airport since October 2017. While fuel is a costly aviation expense, sticker shock is usually avoided by fueling up at a US military base.
Additionally, Turnberry is 30 miles away from the airport and surrounded by a number of chain hotels such as Marriotts and Hiltons, which are generally cheaper and more in line with service members’ allotted per diem.
The report says one of the C-17 crew members was immediately thrown off by the Turnberry booking and that he messaged a personal acquaintance pictures of the resort, along with information about its general prices.
Though not familiar with the aforementioned stay, one senior USAF official told Politico that “unless all the hotels are booked or there is a Scottish sheep festival going on,” crew members usually stay on a military base or pick reasonably-priced lodging nearby, because “master sergeants are cheap.”
However, USAF chief spokesman Brig. Gen. Ed Thomas contested to Military.com that the “stopover of a US Air Force C-17 in Glasgow, Scotland, is not unusual.” Glasgow is approximately 50 miles from Turnberry.
"Every two-and-a-half minutes an Air Force transport aircraft takes off or lands somewhere around the globe. As our aircrews serve on these international airlift missions, they follow strict guidelines on contracting for hotel accommodations and all expenditures of taxpayer dollars,” said the official in a Saturday email. He asserted that the decision was ultimately made through the use of the Defense Travel System, which showed Turnberry as the closest lodging with availability near Prestwick.
"The Trump property - at $136 a night - was less expensive than the Marriott property - $161 a night - and both were under the per diem rate of $166,” Thomas claimed.
Nevertheless, the USAF has initiated a review of its records since the report’s publication.
According to documents filed by the Trump Organization, Turnberry lost $4.5 million in 2017 and had been in the red for four consecutive years prior to 2018, when the resort saw a $3 million positive gain in revenue.
Between Turnberry’s recent profits, the USAF’s newfound attraction to Prestwick and the strikingly low rates, lawmakers are suspicious that Trump may be in violation of the domestic emoluments clause, which restricts the sitting president from receiving federal compensation, aside from the presidential salary.
“The Defense Department has not produced a single document in this investigation,” a Democratic aide with the oversight committee told Politico. It’s worth noting former Acting United States Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan was in office when the committee issued the letter to the Pentagon. Current Defense Secretary Mark Esper assumed office on July 23.
“The committee will be forced to consider alternative steps if the Pentagon does not begin complying voluntarily in the coming days,” the aide explained.