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Conflict of interest claim

Congress probes Trump over military discounts at golf resort

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Donald Trump marking is acquisition of Turnberry

President Donald Trump is being investigated over a potential conflict of interest over military spending at Prestwick Airport at visit by personnel to his nearby Turnberry golf resort.

Congress’s House Oversight and Reform Committee wants to know whether the increased expenditure at the airport together with alleged discounts and free rounds of golf offered to staff by the hotel represent a violation of the US constitution,

According to the Politico news website Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the committee, wrote in June to the then acting secretary of defence, Patrick Shanahan, to raise “serious conflict of interest concerns” about Mr Trump making money from military trips to Scotland.

The letter states: “Two years before the 2016 election, President Trump spent hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase and renovate the Turnberry golf course in Scotland. To date, the property has continued to suffer financial losses and has not turned a profit.

“The airport closest to the Trump Turnberry golf course – Glasgow Prestwick airport – has been viewed as integral to the golf course’s financial success, yet it too has lost millions of dollars every year since its purchase by the Scottish government in 2013.”

Defence Logistics Agency records show 629 fuel purchase orders worth $11m since October 2017.

The letter adds: “Given the president’s continued financial stake in his Scotland golf courses, these reports raise questions about the president’s potential receipt of US or foreign government emoluments in violation of the US constitution and raise other serious conflict of interest concerns.

“In order to fulfil its responsibilities under the constitution, the committee is seeking information related to expenditures at both Prestwick airport and the president’s nearby Scotland golf resorts.”

The letter requests access to all communications between the US Department of Defense and Trump Turnberry, as well as any related financial records.

According to various reports in the US media, the department has not yet complied with the demands.

The airport was acquired by the Scottish Government for £1 in the face of criticism that it would be investing taxpayers’ money in a loss-making operation. The government argued it was a salvaging a strategic asset and saving jobs. In June, it was put up for sale. It has reportedly slashed its charges to try to retain business.

The Scottish government faced further attacks in 2017 after the Turnberry resort received a tax rebate. Later that year, the rules changed and it no longer qualified.

The government distanced itself from the recent claims by saying Prestwick Airport operates on a commercial basis and at arm’s length from ministers.

The US defense department said in a statement to the New York Times that a stopover of a US air force C-17 and its crew at Trump Turnberry in March 2019 had not been unusual, and they had “used the closest available and least expensive accommodations to the airfield within the crew’s allowable hotel rates”.

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