Trump Continues To Use The Presidency To Enrich Himself And His Family
For Donald Trump, the Presidency has been nothing but a get richer quick scam.
From the beginning of his Presidency and even before that while he was a candidate for office, Donald Trump has been accused of using his political career to advance his political career. By and large, this has proven to be true.
In addition to spending pretty much every weekend, he’s been in Washington D.C. golfing at the Trump-branded course in Virginia and promoting his hotel in Washington, D.C., the President has also spent a considerable amount of vacation time at his Mar-A-Lago club in Florida and at his golf course in New Jersey. On overseas visits, meanwhile, he has stayed at locations such as his golf courses in Scotland and Ireland.
In all of these cases, of course, his properties have been reimbursed by Federal agencies such as the Secret Service, the White House itself, and, of course, the Defense Department, for space they need to stay close to the President. His properties have also benefited from the fact that members of the media have stayed there while covering the President.
In addition to this, despite the fact that he supposedly placed his properties in a “blind trust” and left sons Donald Jr. and Eric in charge of the family business, the President has used his time in office to promote several Trump properties. This is especially true of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, just down the street from the White House. Over the course of the past three years, that hotel and its bars and restaurants have become the preferred spot for Republicans in Congress, conservative pundits who wish to curry favor with the White House, and foreign leaders, dignitaries, and businesses who clearly believe that enriching The Trump Organization will work to their advantage.
In addition to these incidents, several others over the past month illustrate the extent to which this President uses the Presidency primarily to enrich himself and his family to an extent never before seen in American history:
- At the conclusion of the G-7 Summit in France, Trump stated that he was considering having the 2020 summit held at his golf resort in Doral, Florida outside of Miami;
- Shortly after this, The New York Times reported that Attorney General William Barr was spending $30,000 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington for the lavish Christmas party that he holds every year;
- Just this past week, in a move that seems irrational on its face, Vice-President Pence, his family, entourage, and traveling support staff, stayed at the Trump golf resort on the western coast of Ireland while Pence was meeting with Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar in Dublin, using Air Force Two to travel between the two Irish coasts. As I noted at the time, this is roughly the equivalent of staying at a hotel in Boston while having meetings in New York City and then flying from Logan Airport to Kennedy Airport to get to that meeting.
Finally, and most recently, Politico is reporting that an Air Force unit traveling between the United States and Kuwait on a seemingly routine mission to deliver supplies was mysteriously diverted to a location in Scotland that basically required them to stay at a Trump golf course near Glasgow:
In early Spring of this year, an Air National Guard crew made a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies.
What wasn’t routine was where the crew stopped along the way: President Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow, Scotland.
Since April, the House Oversight Committee has been investigating why the crew on the C-17 military transport plane made the unusual stay — both en route to the Middle East and on the way back — at the luxury waterside resort, according to several people familiar with the incident. But they have yet to receive any answers from the Pentagon.
The inquiry is part of a broader, previously unreported probe into U.S. military expenditures at and around the Trump property in Scotland. According to a letter the panel sent to the Pentagon in June, the military has spent $11 million on fuel at the Prestwick Airport — the closest airport to Trump Turnberry — since October 2017, fuel that would be cheaper if purchased at a U.S. military base. The letter also cites a Guardian report that the airport provided cut-rate rooms and free rounds of golf at Turnberry for U.S. military members.
Taken together, the incidents raise the possibility that the military has helped keep Trump’s Turnberry resort afloat — the property lost $4.5 million in 2017, but revenue went up $3 million in 2018.
On previous trips to the Middle East, the C-17 had landed at U.S. air bases such as Ramstein Air Base in Germany or Naval Station Rota in Spain to refuel, according to one person familiar with the trips. Occasionally the plane stopped in the Azores and once in Sigonella, Italy, both of which have U.S. military sites, the person added.
But on this particular trip, the plane landed in Glasgow — a pitstop the five-man crew had never experienced in their dozens of trips to the Middle East. The location lacked a U.S. base and was dozens of miles away from the crew’s overnight lodging at the Turnberry resort.
Had the crew needed to make a stop in the U.K., Lakenheath Air Base is situated nearby in England. The layover might have been cheaper, too: the military gets billed at a higher rate for fuel at commercial airports.
One crew member was so struck by the choice of hotel — markedly different than the Marriotts and Hiltons the 176th maintenance squadron is used to — that he texted someone close to him and told him about the stay, sending a photo and noting that the crew’s per diem allowance wasn’t enough to cover food and drinks at the ritzy resort.
The revelation that an Air Force mission may have helped line the president’s pockets comes days after Vice President Mike Pence was pressed about his decision to stay at Trump’s property in Doonbeg, Ireland, despite its location hundreds of miles away from his meetings in Dublin. The Oversight Committee is also investigating Pence’s stay at the resort.
A senior Air Force xtofficial who was previously stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska — where the C-17 crew was based — said choosing to refuel in Glasgow and stay at a posh property a half hour away would be unusual for such a mission. Typically, the official said, air crews stay on a military base while in transit or at nearby lodgings “unless all the hotels are booked or there is a Scottish sheep festival going on.”
The official, who was not aware of the specific allegations, also said that the mid-level officers or senior enlisted airmen commonly responsible for identifying lodging for the personnel are notoriously frugal and try to stay where their government allowance covers the costs.
“Master sergeants are cheap,” he said.
To a large degree, of course, examples like these are what the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution are all about. While there isn’t much we know about exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind with these clauses, they are clearly aimed at preventing situations where the President uses his government position to enrich himself, or where domestic and foreign entities seek to curry favor with the President by providing financial benefit to him. To an extent never seen before in history, this exactly what this President has been doing for nearly three years now, and he will continue doing it as long as he is in power. The court proceedings are moving forward, of course, but they are doing so slowly. That’s why Congress needs to investigate these matters and other examples where the President may be abusing his authority to enrich himself and his children. Because he isn’t going to stop voluntarily.