President Donald Trump said Monday that he does not know anything about US Air Force crews staying at his Turnberry resort in Scotland during refueling stops.
The layovers have raised ethics questions about government use of the President’s private entities.
“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!). NOTHING TO DO WITH ME,” he tweeted.
The President appeared to be responding to the Air Force’s decision to order a review of all international layover stays over the weekend.
“Air Force leadership directed Air Mobility Command to review all guidance pertaining to selection of airports and lodging accommodations during international travels,” the Air Force said in a statement Sunday evening, which was first reported by Politico.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee earlier this year launched a probe of the stays after aircraft were directed to land at Prestwick Airport, in Glasgow, Scotland. The crew members would then stay at Turnberry. The Air Force had previously launched a separate inquiry into those stays.
The number of overnight stops at Prestwick has steadily increased in recent years. There were 40 in 2015, 75 in 2016, 116 in 2017, 208 in 2018 and 220 through August 2019.
The Air Force was unable to immediately say how many of those overnight stays were made at Turnberry.
The Air Force says the reason for the airfield’s increased usage derived from a flight directive issued to mobility crews in June 2017 which it said was “designed to increase efficiencies by standardizing routing locations, with Prestwick being among the top five locations recommended for reasons such as more favorable weather than nearby Shannon Airport, and less aircraft parking congestion than locations on the European continent.”
Over the weekend, it was reported that a US Air Force C-17 crew stayed at the Turnberry resort during a March refueling stop en route to Kuwait, another example of Trump’s company earning money from taxpayer dollars, which has led some government watchdogs to argue the arrangements breach ethical norms and potentially violate a clause of the US Constitution.
During that flight, seven active duty and National Guard crew members stayed at Turnberry. The Air Force said the Turnberry resort was less expensive than a nearby Marriott and that both were under the per diem rate of $166.
The Air Force also said it schedules stopovers based on factors such as travel distance, including refueling stops for flights to the Middle East, 24/7 operations, parking and contract fuel availability.
“As our aircrews serve on these international airlift missions, they follow strict guidelines on contracting for hotel accommodations and all expenditures of taxpayer dollars,” the Air Force said in a statement Sunday night.
Still, the Air Force acknowledged that “service members lodging at higher-end accommodations, even if within government rates, might be allowable but not advisable.”
“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,” the service said in Sunday’s statement.