Air Force finds 6% of air crews stayed at Trump resort in Scotland

Democrats have raised questions about a possible conflict of interest.

September 13, 2019, 3:46 PM

An Air Force review of overnight stays by its aircrews in Scotland found that 6% of the crews that overnighted during refueling stops at Prestwick Airport near Glasgow had stayed at the Trump family-owned Turnberry golf resort, according to an Air Force official.

The official said the overwhelming majority of overnight stays were in lodging accommodations close to the airport which has seen an increase in Air Force refueling stops since receiving an Air Force contract in 2015.

According to Air Force statistics, since 2015 -- when it became one of the dozen military and civilian airfields in Europe where U.S. Air Force aircraft can refuel -- aircrews have made 936 refueling stops at the airport. Six-hundred-fifty-nine of those stops required overnight stays to meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rest requirements for pilots.

The Air Force looked into the how many overnight stays occurred at the upscale Trump Turnberry resort located 20 miles from Prestwick because of news reports about a C-17 aircrew's overnight stay in March at the Trump resort in Scotland instead of at other lodging accommodations closer to the airport.

The layover in March had become part of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's investigation into why the financially strapped airport near the Trump property had seen an uptick in business since the start of the Trump administration. The committee has been investigating whether there is a potential conflict of interest where President Trump is benefiting financially from U.S. military stays at the Turnberry resort.

An Air Force official said an internal review of the 659 overnight stops found that about 6% (39) of the overnight stays were at the Trump Turnberry resort located 20 miles from the airport.

"About 75 percent of the crews stayed in the immediate vicinity of the airfield and 18 percent stayed in Glasgow," said the official.

PHOTO: Trump Turnberry hotel and golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland, June 24, 2016.
Trump Turnberry hotel and golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland, June 24, 2016.
Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

"As a practice, we generally send aircrews to the closest, most suitable accommodations within the government hotel rate," said the official .

PHOTO: U. S. Airforce plane seen at the Warsaw Airport.
U. S. Airforce plane seen at the Warsaw Airport in Poland.
Jp Black/LightRocket via Getty Images

According to Air Force statistics provided to reporters this week, the number of U.S. refueling stops at Prestwick and overnight stays in the Glasgow area has increased year by year since 2015. That year there were 95 refueling stops with 40 overnight stays, in 2016 there were 145 refueling stops with 75 overnight stays, in 2017 there were 180 refueling stops with 116 overnight stays , in 2018 there were 257 refueling stops with 208 overnight stays in Scotland, and through August of this year there have been 259 refueling stops with 220 overnight stays.

Air Force officials say the increase in refueling stops is due to the airport's 24 hour a day operations and better weather than other airports in the United Kingdom.

Earlier this week, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform threatened to issue a subpoena to the Defense Department because it has not provided documents related to the stays at the Turnberry resort as it requested in June.

The Air Force is now reviewing its overnight lodging guidelines for pilots on layovers inlight of the attention raised about the stay.

"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," Brig. Gen. Edward Thomas, director of Air Force Public Affairs, told reporters earlier this week.

"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," he added.

According to Air Force officials, a local contractor was unable to find closer lodging accommodations for the C-17 crew and found cheaper government rates at the Trump property.

The Trump property nightly rate of $136 was less expensive than the $161 charged by a nearby Marriott property. Both of those rates were below the per diem rate of $166.

On the return flight from Kuwait, the C-17 crew stayed at the nearby Marriott property.

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