President Donald Trump on Monday attempted to distance himself from fresh controversies involving his businesses, the latest in a longstanding debate about whether he is using the presidency to enhance his personal wealth.
Trump referred to both Vice President Mike Pence’s recent stay at the president’s Irish golf resort and a report that Air Force crewmembers stayed at the president’s Scottish golf club.
“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!),” he tweeted. “NOTHING TO DO WITH ME.”
Trump’s all-caps concluding remark quickly began trending on Twitter.
Minutes later, he sent a second tweet claiming: “I had nothing to do with the decision of our great @VP Mike Pence to stay overnight at one of the Trump owned resorts in Doonbeg, Ireland. Mike’s family has lived in Doonbeg for many years, and he thought that during his very busy European visit, he would stop and see his family!”
Both incidents have brought renewed attention in Congress to Trump’s relationship with his business. House Democrats are probing both the Pence stay and the Air Force sleepover, the latter of which they claimed the White House was stonewalling. The House Judiciary Committee is separately investigating whether the president has run afoul of the Emoluments Clause.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement last week that Trump’s properties “are a cesspool of corruption,” and “a black hole for taxpayers’ money.”
The first incident to catch attention was Pence’s stay at Trump Doonbeg, which required him to fly across Ireland for official meetings in Dublin. Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short on Tuesday said that Pence chose the area based on family ties, and Trump made a “suggestion” that Pence stay at the resort.
By Wednesday, Pence’s team said in a statement that Trump did not “direct” the vice president to stay at the golf club and the decision was “solely” made by Pence’s office. Later that day, Trump said he had “no involvement” with Pence’s decision to stay at Trump Doonbeg, telling reporters “people like my product, what can I tell you.”
“I don’t suggest anything,” Trump said. “I don’t suggest it, nor did I with the attorney general, I never spoke to the attorney general about using my hotel,” referring to reports that Attorney General William Barr booked a $30,000 holiday party at Trump International Hotel in Washington in December.
“I have a lot of hotels all over the place, and people use them because they’re the best,” Trump added. “And I know the attorney general is using it, as I read in the paper. To this day I haven’t spoken to him about it, but he’s using the hotel. And people like my product, what can I tell you, can’t help it.”
On Friday, Politico reported on a previously undisclosed Air Force stay at Trump Turnberry after crewmembers refueled at a small, nearby airport. As more stays were later reveled, the Air Force ordered a world-wide review of its overnight accommodations process. On Sunday, the Air Force said it did not appear any regulations were broken when a military flight crew flying from Alaska to Kuwait stopped in Scotland and stayed Trump Turnberry.
The president has come under scrutiny for the use of taxpayer dollars at his properties. As president, Trump has spent roughly 300 days at Trump properties, according to an NBC News count. Ahead of his inauguration, Trump chose to turn control of his company over to his two adult sons and a senior Trump Organization executive rather than divest from his large portfolio.
Last month, the president suggested that next year’s G-7 summit should be hosted at his Miami golf resort, insisting he would not profit off such a venture.
“We’ve reached a point where the corruption of the Trump presidency pervades all facets of the government,” Jordan Libowitz, communications director for the left-leaning watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told NBC News. “People can no longer ignore it. It seems now clear that he is using the presidency for his own personal profits. There is a reason we are now seeing movement on a Congressional impeachment inquiry.”
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