President Donald Trump said Monday that he knew “nothing about an Air Force plane landing at an airport” in Scotland and its crew then staying at the Trump family’s nearby Turnberry golf resort, addressing for the first time a growing controversy over the use by the Air Force of his resort there for overnight stays by military personnel.
Eric Lipton/c.2019 The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON — The tweet by Trump came after the Air Force announced it is reviewing the procedures it uses to place military personnel in hotels, following questions about the matter by House investigators.
“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 wrote in this tweet. “NOTHING TO DO WITH ME.”
In a separate tweet, Trump also disputed the suggestion that he had urged Vice President Mike Pence to stay at a second family resort, in this case, the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland.
“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!”
The series of tweets reflects the persistent controversies that are arising as a result of questions about potential conflicts of interest as Trump continues to own a collection of hotels, resorts and golf courses that are getting millions of dollars worth of business from the U.S. government, political candidates, lobbyists and others, as well as his own political campaign.
On Thursday, Pence is scheduled to appear at a fundraising event for a conservative women’s group at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, continuing the pattern of visits by administration officials at Trump properties.
Air Force planes have increasingly used the Glasgow Prestwick Airport for refueling stops, which often include overnight stays. The number of such stops rose from 180 in 2017, to 257 as of last year and 259 so far this year. The 259 stops this year included 220 overnight stays. Since October 2017, records show 917 payments for expenses including fuel at the airport worth a total of $17.2 million.
In March, seven crew members flying on a C-17 military transport plane that was on its way to Kuwait from Alaska stayed overnight at the Trump Turnberry resort.
The crew was placed at the Trump property when a local agent on contract with the U.S. government “indicated that there wasn’t a room available closer,” the Air Force said in a statement. The Trump property charged the Air Force $136 per room, which the Air Force said was less expensive than a Marriott property, which had a rate of $161, and both were under the allowable maximum of $166.
But Sunday, in a follow-up statement, the Air Force conceded that the decision might have created a public perception issue.
“While initial reviews indicate that aircrew transiting through Scotland adhered to all guidance and procedures, we understand that U.S. service members lodging at higher-end accommodations, even if within government rates, might be allowable but not advisable,” said the statement issued Sunday evening by Brig. Gen. Edward W. Thomas Jr., the chief Air Force spokesman. “Therefore, we are reviewing all associated guidance.”
The issue, the Air Force said, is that even if the “aircrews follow all directives and guidance, we must still be considerate of perceptions of not being good stewards of taxpayer funds that might be created through the appearance of aircrew staying at such locations.”