WASHINGTON - The House Oversight Committee is investigating why a financially struggling airport near a Trump-owned golf course in Scotland has seen an uptick in expenditures by the U.S. military since President Donald Trump took office.
Chairman Elijah E. Cummings and Rep. Jamie Raskin, both Maryland Democrats, sent a letter to the Defense Department's acting secretary, Patrick Shanahan, in June asking for all travel information pertaining to Pentagon personnel through the Glasgow Prestwick Airport, as well as visits to the Trump Turnberry golf resort.
In the letter, Cummings and Raskin say that the airport "reportedly has provided 'cut-price rooms for select passengers and crew' and 'offered free rounds at Turnberry to visiting U.S. military and civilian air crews.' "
Trump purchased the cash-strapped golf course on the west coast of Scotland in 2014 and has never turned a profit on his investment. In the years after his purchase, Trump advocated bringing more flights through Prestwick Airport, which would benefit his property just 30 miles away.
The Oversight Committee members cite a February 2018 story in the Guardian stating that the Defense Logistics Agency has helped shore up the airport’s income by stopping there for refueling during missions. Since October 2017, the Pentagon has spent $11 million on fuel at Prestwick.
Politico, which first reported the Oversight investigation, described one Air National Guard trip to Kuwait in which the Alaska-based crew stopped at Trump’s Turnberry property on the way there and back. Typically, crews refuel in locations where there are U.S. military bases.
One member of the crew based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage texted “someone close to him” a photo of the resort and said their per diem allowance wouldn’t cover the meal expenses.
Crew members who need to overnight away from bases usually stay at inexpensive lodgings, an Air Force official previously stationed at JBER told Politico.
The Air Force on Saturday defended the stopover in Glasgow en route to Kuwait and provided additional details about that trip, which took place from March 13 to March 19. The seven active-duty and Guard crew members stayed at the Trump property on the way there, but at a Marriott property on the way back, according to the Air Force. It said the Trump resort cost less than the Marriott and both properties were under the per diem rate of $166.
"Every two and 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," Air Force spokesman Brig. Gen. Edward Thomas Jr. said in an emailed statement. "In this case, they made reservations through the Defense Travel System and used the closest available and least expensive accommodations to the airfield within the crews' allowable hotel rates. While we are still reviewing the trip records, we have found nothing that falls outside the guidelines associated with selecting stopover airports on travel routes and hotel accommodations for crew rest."
The House investigation into this trip dovetails with the committee's larger review of potential conflicts of interest between Trump's role as president and his businesses, particularly when it relates to foreign governments and possible violations of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says a U.S. president cannot take money or gifts from a foreign leader or government.
News of the letter comes after Vice President Mike Pence's recent stay at a Trump property in Ireland, far from his meetings in Dublin, raised eyebrows. The Oversight panel is also investigating whether Trump benefited financially from Pence's choice of lodging on the taxpayer's dime.
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The Washington Post’s Rachael Bade contributed to this report.