Over the weekend, the U.S. Air Force announced that it initiated a global review of the procedures for selecting which airports and hotels its members use while traveling abroad. This revelation followed a big Politico story on Friday revealing that Air Force planes on long-haul flights to the Middle East have stopped to refuel at a small civilian airport in Scotland—and stayed overnight at Trump Turnberry, a struggling golf resort owned by President Donald Trump, with increasing frequency.
In fall 2018, passengers and crew on an Air Force flight from to the U.S. stopped at Glasgow Prestwick Airport and spent the night at Trump Turnberry, about 30 miles away, says Politico. Earlier this year, the Air Force stopped a flight en route to Kuwait in Glasgow and put up the crew at Turnberry, where a maintenance squad used to chain hotels found that the restaurant menu's prices far exceeded their usual per diem allowances. As detailed in a fact sheet provided to Politico, Air Force layovers at Prestwick have increased during each of the past four years, from 40 in 2015 to 220 through August of this year—a spike of more than 500 percent.
In the same statement, an Air Force spokesperson explained this pattern as follows: The airport in question has more space, better weather, and longer operating hours than other nearby military and civilian layover options. Picking a hotel, meanwhile, is a complex exercise in balancing cost, convenience, availability, and amenities. Flight crews may need rooms with blackout curtains, for example, in order to sleep during the day.
As long as rates remain within Department of Defense allowances, stays at "higher-end accommodations" are permitted. A spokesperson told Politico that asserted that "aircrew transiting through Scotland adhered to all guidance and procedures," and that at the time, Trump Turnberry was the least-expensive option among the dozens of available hotels in and around Prestwick. A Trump organization spokesperson told the New York Times that the hotel charged the government a discounted rate.
The fact sheet acknowledged, however, that in light of the need to be "good stewards of taxpayer funds," such stays "might be allowable but not advisable." Put differently, the U.S. military spending U.S. taxpayer dollars at a luxury hotel owned by a U.S. president is self-evidently a bad look.
If, hypothetically speaking, Trump's association with Turnberry were a factor in the decision-making process, it would be a major coup for a resort that lost $4.5 million in 2017—its fourth straight year of failing to turn a profit, according to the Washington Post. Scoring a refueling contract with the U.S. government would also be good news for Prestwick, which operates at an annual loss and has racked up tens of millions of pounds in debt since the Scottish government, seeking to prevent its closure, bought it for £1 in 2013. Its arrangement with the U.S. military is still its largest revenue stream. Earlier this year, officials announced an effort to sell off the still-floundering facility sometime this fall.
The story evidently concerned Trump enough to merit an indignant tweet, in which he claimed to "know nothing" about the Air Force landing at a Scottish airport that, he said, "I do not own and have nothing to do with." (He did, however, assert that staying overnight at Turnberry is evidence of the crew's "good taste.") This claim is belied by the fact that in 2014, the Trump Organization and Prestwick announced a strategic partnership to try and boost flight traffic to and from the airport. At the time, long before he ever imagined that his improbable political ascendance would cause conflicts of interest to plague him at every turn, Trump of course tweeted enthusiastically about it.
In response to the Air Force story, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform announced that it, too, would investigate the Prestwick-Turnberry connection, perhaps adding it to the laundry list of matters that may or may not merit impeachment. But this episode is only one among many ways in which Trump's status as commander-in-chief has aided his efforts to enrich himself and those close to him. Trump allegedly helped scrap a proposal, for example, to demolish the FBI headquarters and sell land to private developers, fearing a competitor's presence could hurt business at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. In all, that development has made more than $80 million since he took office, buoyed by the spending of foreign governments and domestic interest groups eager to earn his favor. Watchdog groups have logged visits to Trump properties of at least 90 members of Congress, 250 Trump administration officials, and 110 foreign officials since he took office.
Outside Washington, D.C., Donald Trump is on pace to play golf at Trump-branded clubs 310 times over his four years in office—about one taxpayer-funded outing every 4.7 days. In 2017, these trips required the U.S. Secret Service to spend more than $137,000 just on golf carts. In August, attorney general Bill Barr booked the hotel's Presidential Ballroom to host a holiday party this winter—a $30,000 check payable directly to his boss's family business. And a week ago, during a diplomatic visit to Ireland, Vice President Mike Pence elected to stay at a remote Trump resort located about 180 miles away from Dublin, where his meetings were set to take place. (The president also tweeted that he had "nothing to do" with that, as if picking a hotel a short flight away from one's destination were a perfectly sensible, cost-effective choice.)
Since 2016, revenue is indeed up slightly at many of the resorts that bear his name, including Turnberry, where it increased by $3.1 million in 2018. The year before, just weeks after his inauguration, Trump's private club at Mar-a-Lago—what he calls the "Winter White House"—doubled its initiation fee to $200,000 per prospective member who hoped to bump into the President of the United States en route to the putting green. On the balance sheet of his presidency, his token refusal of his $400,000 annual salary seems to be a rounding error in the financial benefits of the presidency.
More than two years into Donald Trump's White House tenure, it has become apparent that the American political system was ill-prepared for a chief executive who overwhelms the office with such a diverse array of conflicts of interests—and who allows a culture of unapologetic self-enrichment to thrive around him. Recall that on his watch, members of his Cabinet have requested military planes for their honeymoons, booked their travel arrangements on charter jets, and outfitted their government offices with $43,000 phone booths and $31,000 dining tables.
Trump isn't hiding or making excuses for any of these government-assisted revenue streams; instead, every time a new one comes to light, he shrugs his shoulders and assures voters that brazen appropriation of taxpayer dollars is nothing to worry about. At every level, this White House is filled with people who share a common purpose: Make as much money as possible from this job as long as you can.
In July of 2006, Donald Trump had a new wife, a hit TV show, and a trip to a celebrity golf tourney with a slew of porn stars secretly in attendance. According to a few of those women, including Stormy Daniels, Trump went wild. A dozen years later, what he did threatens his presidency. Ben Schreckinger pieces together the whole weird, sleazy weekend to figure out: What the hell happened in Tahoe?
Originally Appeared on GQ