02:53 GMT04 December 2020
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    Members of US President Donald Trump's private clubs in Florida were reportedly invited to tour Air Force One in 2017, a move raising questions about the separation between the Trump administration and the president's private businesses.

    The revelation, first reported Monday by BuzzFeed News, was made possible after the outlet was able to verify an email invitation for the 2017 tour that it obtained with records received through a Freedom of Information Act request.

    According to the publication, two tours were scheduled to take place at Palm Beach International Airport's Atlantic Aviation FBO on February 18, 2017. One tour was for 1 p.m.; the second for 2 p.m. local time.

    Unlike tours given in the 14 months prior to the event, BuzzFeed reported that redacted government records regarding the February affair did not state the name of the agency or title of the official in charge of the tour.

    The invitation was sent to at least 14 people by US Air Force pilot William McDougall. Although the guest names were redacted from government files, investigators found that eight of those invited had ties to Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort and the Trump International Golf Club after connecting the unredacted email addresses to Arrigo Automotive Group, a family-owned West Palm Beach company.

    When contacted, John Arrigo, who has been a member of both clubs for several years, stated that he had no comment on the matter. However, he did not deny that the event took place.

    Neither Arrigo's father nor brother offered a comment on the tour. Both men and their partners have also been members of the clubs. Photos of the Arrigo family show them taking part in various club events — one image even shows John Arrigo playing golf with Trump some two weeks before the tour.

    "It is common for friends/family of the president to receive tours of Air Force One," Stephanie Grisham, then a spokesperson for the White House, told BuzzFeed in 2017. "This is something that has been done in past administrations going back years and is not out of the ordinary."

    Grisham, who now serves as press secretary and communications director to First Lady Melania Trump, added that if the invitation had been sent to longtime club members, "then they are most likely longtime friends of the president."

    "You have to keep in mind that Mar-a-Lago has been the president's home for years."

    Reporters noted that when they called on the White House for an updated response to the latest revelations, their request for a comment was not returned.


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