Air Force Finds Exciting New Way To Make Trump Hotels Great Again
What a wild month this weekend was, huh? On Friday night, Politico's Natasha Bertrand broke the news that the US Air Force has suddenly discovered the tiny, money-losing Prestwick Airport outside Trump's giant, money-losing golf course in Glasgow, Scotland, and decided to start using taxpayer money at both of them. Sure it would be cheaper to buy fuel at one of our own bases in Germany or Spain, as usual, or heck, even at the 100th Air Refueling Wing 350 miles southeast in England at the American base in Mildenhall. But for some reason, the Air Force decided to drastically ramp up visits to Prestwick since Donald Trump took office, rising from 95 stops with 40 overnight stays in 2015 to 259 stops with 220 overnights in the first eight months of 2019 alone. That's a heckuva coincidence!
Oh, look! There's "business tycoon" Donald Trump in 2015 talking about ways to prop up the lagging airport close to his Scottish golf course in 2015. As Trump Organization VP George Sorial told Scottish reporter Martyn McLaughlin in 2016, "In light of their proximity to Turnberry, in which we are making a significant investment, we thought it made business sense to explore different avenues where we could work together and assist them in building up their level of business there." And it sure looks like he found a way to do it! The Scotsman reports that the US Armed Forces paid $17.3 million for fuel at Prestwick since October 2017, which is "by far the airport's single biggest revenue stream." And now they're making the deal permanent.
A new extended deal between Prestwick and the DLA, known as a EUCOM Into-Plane contract, will come into force next month and last until September 2024. It will allow for the supply of around 12.4 million gallons of aviation fuel, approximately three million more than the current arrangement.
This is good news for the Scottish government, which bought Prestwick for all of £1 in 2013 and watched it lose money ever since. And it's good for Donald Trump, whose business would suffer if the airport were forced to close. Besides which, there's no base housing in Glasgow to park crews in, so there's room for a little more grift.
Politico reports that Trump's Turnberry resort lost $4.5 million in 2017, but rose $3 million the following year, probably because Eric Trump is such a business wizard! But some of that revenue came from taxpayers footing the bill to put service members up in the hotel on at least three occasions.
"The crew were so confused by what was happening when they were rerouted to Scotland to refuel at this tiny airport outside of Trump Turnberry because they had never done that before in the fifty-plus trips they had taken to do these routine supply trips," Natasha Bertrand told Rachel Maddow on Friday. "They had never stopped in Scotland. It was always in Spain, or Germany, or if needed in Italy. But to stop in Scotland was strange enough, and for them to drive another 30 miles to Trump's Turnberry resort -- they didn't have enough money. Their per diem allowance didn't even allow them to buy food and drinks there. They felt totally out of place."
The Scotsman's Martyn McLaughlin confirmed that Prestwick staff "routinely" make reservations at the Trump resort and other local hotels for US service members, although they stressed that they receive no commission on the booking. So that's all fine then! And Air Force Brigadier General Ed Thomas was quick to reassure Politico that the Trump hotel was simply the cheapest and closest available.
In this case, they made reservations through the Defense Travel System and used the closest available and least expensive accommodations to the airfield within the crews' allowable hotel rates. While we are still reviewing the trip records, we have found nothing that falls outside the guidelines associated with selecting stopover airports on travel routes and hotel accommodations for crew rest.
The House Oversight Committee has been asking for months about military stays at Trump properties, most particularly the Turnberry resort. In line with its OVERSIGHT IS ILLEGAL stance, the Trump Defense Department has given Congress a big middle finger in response to its inquiries. But yesterday the Air Force issued a statement to Politico that it would be conducting a "world-wide review" of its own process for selecting accommodations for service members. Not because they did anything wrong, of course, perish the thought, but just because some people might get the wrong idea.
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. 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.
Will the Air Force cite its own internal investigation as justification to continue stonewalling congressional inquiries into taxpayer money flowing into Trump's greedy pockets? Who knows! The important thing is, there's nothing to see here. And if you don't believe the Air Force spokesman, just ask the demented Tweeter in Chief.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.