WASHINGTON >> The Defense Department has spent at least $184,000 at the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland since 2017, as it sent several dozen crews from flights making a refueling stopover to the resort hotel, the Pentagon said in a letter sent to congressional investigators.
The spending figure from the Defense Department came after the House Oversight and Reform Committee asked in June about a surge in Air Force flights stopping for refueling at the Glasgow Prestwick Airport in Scotland. Flight crews and passengers from some of those flights spent the night at the Trump Turnberry resort, about 25 miles away.
Between August 2017 and July 2019, the Defense Department records show $124,579 was spent at Trump Turnberry, or an average cost of $189.04 per overnight stay. That suggests a total of about 660 individual rooms were paid for at the hotel during that period.
The Defense Department also reported that there was an additional $59,729 in travel charges associated with the Trump Turnberry that could not be tied to actual travel vouchers. The letter did not detail how the additional money was spent, but suggested it could have been on “meals eaten at restaurants while on official travel.”
The total spending of more than $184,000 is way up compared to the prior two years, when department records show that a total of $64,380 was spent through government travel charge cards at Trump Turnberry.
Last week, the Air Force reported that crews had stayed at Turnberry Resort about 6% of the times its flights had made overnight stays linked to stops at the Prestwick airport since 2015. That works out to about 40 instances when crews were taken there in cars or aboard a bus, when the layovers included a large number of passengers.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the committee chairman, wrote back to the Pentagon on Wednesday expressing frustration with the Pentagon’s response. He noted, for example, that the Defense Department did not specifically say how many total rooms were booked at Trump Turnberry.
“Unfortunately, the department’s response has been woefully inadequate,” Cummings said in a letter that was also signed by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., chairman of the panel’s civil rights and civil liberties subcommittee. “The department failed to produce any underlying invoices or travel records relating to spending at Trump Turnberry or Prestwick Airport. It is unclear why the department has taken so long to produce such rudimentary and deficient information.”
The stays at the hotel have drawn criticism by Democrats in Congress given that Trump’s family owns the hotel and is potentially profiting from spending by the Pentagon.
The number of U.S. military flights stopping for refueling and crew rest at Glasgow Prestwick Airport has jumped since Donald Trump became president, with the Pentagon spending nearly $17 million at the airport since January 2017 on refueling and other services. The Defense Department, in a letter signed by James N. Stewart, assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs, said the shift to the Prestwick airport had taken place because it is ideally located on the air route between the Middle East and other locations in Europe and it is open every day and around the clock.
The spending at the Trump hotel, he said, was below the amount allowed per day under Defense Department standards. The Turnberry was chosen at least during one March 2019 Air Force stopover at Prestwick, he said, because “it was the closest available lodging with the government hotel rate.”
The State Department has separately spent tens of thousands of dollars since 2017 at Trump Turnberry, associated with a visit last year by Trump to the resort and most likely tied to visits by his son Eric Trump, who travels with Secret Service protection, to the resort, which he helps manage for the family.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., introduced legislation with 33 Democrats and one independent as co-sponsors in the last week that would ban federal spending at properties owned by the president, vice president or any member of the Cabinet.
“Since President Trump took office, the American people have witnessed an unprecedented arrangement that has funneled taxpayer dollars into the president’s pockets,” Peters said in a statement. “As elected officials, we must hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards and ensure that we are using taxpayer dollars responsibly.”