Yesterday’s proposal places Turnberry in a favorable position

Eric Lipton at the Times has the skinny: Trump and Prestwick Airport have an arrangement, that predates his presidency, but that should have been terminated the instant he did become president.

Back in 2014, soon after acquiring a golf resort in Scotland, Donald J. Trump entered a partnership with a struggling local airport there to increase air traffic and boost tourism in the region.

The next year, as Mr. Trump began running for president, the Pentagon decided to ramp up its use of that same airport to refuel Air Force flights and gave the local airport authority the job of helping to find accommodations for flight crews who had to remain overnight.

Those two separate arrangements have now intersected in ways that provide the latest evidence of how Mr. Trump’s continued ownership of his business produces regular ethical questions.

Yesterday Trump was tweeting that where air crews go from Prestwick is NOTHING TO DO WITH him.

But documents obtained from Scottish government agencies show that the Trump Organization, and Mr. Trump himself, played a direct role in setting up an arrangement between the Turnberry resort and officials at Glasgow Prestwick Airport.

The government records, released through Scottish Freedom of Information law, show that the Trump organization, starting in 2014, entered a partnership with the airport to try to increase private and commercial air traffic to the region.

As part of that arrangement, the Trump Organization worked to get Trump Turnberry added to a list of hotels that the airport would routinely send aircrews to, even though the Turnberry resort is 20 miles from the airport, farther away than many other hotels, and has higher advertised prices.

Trump Organization executives held a series of meetings with the airport officials to negotiate terms that would lead to more referrals, the documents show.

“As a list of hotels that we use for our business, being honest, Turnberry was always last on the list, based on price,” Jules Matteoni, a manager at Glasgow Prestwick, wrote in June 2015 to executives at Trump Turnberry. “Yesterday’s proposal places Turnberry in a favorable position and gives us food for thought in our placement of crews moving forward.”

The documents detailing these conversations were previously obtained by reporters in Scotland, including The Scotsman and The Guardian, who wrote articles about the relationship between the Prestwick airport and the Trump Organization. The documents are still posted on the Scottish government website.

Both the Defense Department and executives at the airport confirmed on Monday that the airport also has a separate arrangement with the United States Air Force. Under that arrangement, the Scottish airport not only refuels American military planes but also helps arrange hotel accommodations for arriving crews, as it does for some civilian and commercial aircraft.

“We provide a full handling service for customers and routinely arrange overnight accommodation for visiting aircrew when requested,” the Prestwick airport said in a statement on Monday. “We use over a dozen local hotels, including Trump Turnberry, which accounts for a small percentage of the total hotel bookings we make.”

It was through the arrangement with the Pentagon that a seven-person United States Air Force crew ended up staying at the Trump Turnberry in March. An Air Force C-17 military transport plane was on its way from Alaska to Kuwait when it stopped at Prestwick overnight to refuel and give the crew a break.

Well this all seems pretty straightforward: Turnberry should have been taken off the list the day Trump took office (or earlier), arrangement or no arrangement. Turnberry should have been strictly off-limits to government personnel.

It was through the arrangement with the Pentagon that a seven-person United States Air Force crew ended up staying at the Trump Turnberry in March. An Air Force C-17 military transport plane was on its way from Alaska to Kuwait when it stopped at Prestwick overnight to refuel and give the crew a break.

The crew, which consisted of active duty and national guard members from Alaska, was charged $136 per room, which was less expensive than a Marriott property’s rate of $161. And both were under the per diem rate of $166.

It seems quite possible that this is all the result of the pre-presidency arrangement as opposed to current pressure – but the fact remains that the arrangement should have been nullified in January 2017.

Lt. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, the deputy commander of the Air Force Air Mobility Command, said in an interview on Monday that the rising number of military stopovers at Prestwick was entirely based on operational demands, as the airport is in a convenient location, has 24-hour operations and offers ample aircraft parking, among other advantages. He added that the Air Force has been using Prestwick for stopovers since at least the late 1990s.

But he agreed that the decision to place Air Force crew members at a hotel owned by Mr. Trump’s family had created questions that the Defense Department needed to address. As a result, the Air Force is now reviewing policies on where crews are put up in hotels during international trips.

“Let’s make sure we are considering potential for misperception that could be created by where we billet the aircrews,” he said. “It is a reasonable ask for us to make sure we are being sensitive to misperceptions that could be formed by the American people or Congress or anyone else.”

It’s not a misperception though. It is government money going into Trump’s pocket while he is president. It needs to stop.

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