The revelation that members of the Maine Air National Guard stayed at a Scottish golf resort owned by President Trump’s family is adding to concerns that the president may be profiting from his office.

While details of the overnight stay at Trump Turnberry by the Maine crew were not available Monday, it and other visits to the resort by members of the U.S. military are the subject of an investigation by the House Oversight and Reform Committee that began in April. The Air Force also is reviewing its travel policies and the use of Trump properties in response to the questions raised by members of Congress.

The September 2018 stay by the Maine Guard crew was cited by Politico, which reported that the crew was on its way to the United States from an air base in Qatar and had stopped to refuel at Prestwick Airport, which is near Glasgow and 23 miles from the golf resort.

Other details revealed by the committee’s investigation show that C-17 Globemaster crews also stayed at the resort. The C-17 is a large cargo and troop transport plane. The Maine Air National Guard’s mission involved a KC-135, an aircraft used for aerial refueling.

Maine Air National Guard officials confirmed Monday that a KC-135 stopped at Prestwick in September 2018 as its crew was returning to the United States from a two-month deployment at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

Capt. Carl Lamb, spokesman for the Maine Air National Guard, said the deployment was part of a federal mission and the state did not have any invoices, itineraries or receipts for the stay. Lamb said whenever National Guard units are deployed outside the United States, their costs are paid by the U.S. Department of Defense, which means the federal government and not the state would have paid for the stay at the golf resort.

A KC-135 crew is usually three or four people, including the pilot, the navigator and the refueling boom operator. Longer trips sometimes involve additional crew members, according to an Air Force website.

The Air Force also requires that crew members sleep every 24 hours, unless a waiver is granted to allow the crew to work as long as 26 hours before resting, the Air Force website said. A commercial airline flight from Doha, Qatar, to Glasgow takes about 7 hours, 45 minutes, according to an airline website.

The Air Force, in a written statement, said its crews routinely refuel aircraft at civilian airports and sometimes stay at higher-end hotels if necessary and if the cost is within the allowable Defense Department rate. The cap would be $166 per night in Glasgow, according to department guidelines. However, top Air Force officials have ordered a worldwide review of the use of Trump properties for lodging to determine whether Defense Department rules were broken.

The Air Force did not respond directly to questions about the stay by the Maine Guard members, and instead provided a general written statement from Brig. Gen. Edward Thomas about its policies and its internal review.

“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,” he said in the statement. “Therefore, we are reviewing all associated guidance. Even when USAF 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. (review will include active duty, Guard Reserve).”

Though the statement does not mention the Trump resort, it does say military crews have increased stopovers at Prestwick for a number of operational reasons and to improve efficiency. The Defense Department signed a fuel contract with the airport in 2016, under former President Obama. ​

Between 2015 and 2019, aircraft stopped at Prestwick 936 times and crews stayed overnight 659 times. The frequency of those stops increased from 95 stopovers and 40 overnight stays in 2015 to 250 stopovers and 220 overnight stays for the first eight months of 2019. The Air Force does not say how many of those stays were at the Trump resort.

In a tweet Monday morning, Trump said he was unfamiliar with the Air Force lodging at his family’s property.

“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!),” he wrote, adding: “NOTHING TO DO WITH ME.”

The Trump Turnberry resort is about 24 miles south of the airport. There are dozens of hotels closer to the airport, according to an online search of travel websites Monday. Most of those lodging options were offering rooms at rates between $45 and $150 a night, including many that are within 5 miles of the airport. Rates for a room at the Trump Turnberry started at $235 a night Monday, according to the travel website expedia.com while the hotel’s website listed starting rates at $380 a night.

In its statement, the Air Force said it prefers crews to stay at hotels that are within the allowable lodging rates for the Department of Defense, have “black-out” curtains so crews can sleep during the daylight hours if need be and are “reasonably close to the civil airfield in order to limit transit time.”

The Maine crew’s stay at the resort is the second time Maine has been drawn into concerns that the president may be violating the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause by using his office for financial gain.

In 2017 and 2018, former Republican Gov. Paul LePage and members of his staff paid for 40 rooms at Trump International, the hotel Trump owns in downtown Washington, D.C.

Those stays by LePage became part of a federal suit against Trump by the attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia, which was rejected by a federal appeals court in July.

Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, D-1st District, said Monday that media reports that Trump’s Scottish property had lost $4.5 million in 2017 but saw revenues increase $3 million in 2018 were disturbing, given the Air Force’s acknowledgement of its increased refueling stops at Prestwick.

Pingree urged the Defense Department to comply with outstanding requests for records from the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

“The American taxpayers deserve to know why military resources were spent on stays at President Trump’s luxury resort when there are dozens of other hotels near Prestwick,” Pingree said in a prepared statement. “Let’s remember that President Carter had to sell his peanut farm to avoid the simple appearance of profiting from his office. Meanwhile, President Trump’s properties have been propped up at the expense of taxpayers.”

Sen. Angus King of Maine applauded the Air Force for opening an investigation into its travel policies.

“I appreciate that the Air Force has launched an investigation to make sure that the United States taxpayers are being protected from potential conflicts of interest, and look forward to reviewing the findings,” said King, an independent. “Taxpayer dollars cannot be used to subsidize the president’s properties.”

The other members of Maine’s congressional delegation – Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, and Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican – hadn’t responded to requests for comment Monday.

 

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