The Air Force has increasingly used Glasgow Prestwick Airport in Scotland as a refueling stop, with many crews staying overnight in the vicinity.
Some of the stays have been at Trump Turnberry, a resort nearby, drawing the attention of media, lawmakers, and Air Force leaders.
But the refueling deal with Prestwick was signed “in the waning months of the Obama administration,” Politico reported.
An Air Force spokesman didn’t return a request for comment.
The New York Times noted on Thursday that “there is little evidence of a systematic scheme to enrich Mr. Trump” while also reporting that the decision by the Pentagon to utilize the airport was made while Obama was president.
The Air Force said on Thursday that Air Force crews stayed overnight 659 times in the vicinity of the airport and approximately six percent of those crews, or roughly 40, stayed at the Trump Turnberry.
“As a practice, we generally send aircrews to the closest, most suitable accommodations within the government hotel rate. The review also indicated that about 75 percent of the crews stayed in the immediate vicinity of the airfield and 18 percent stayed in Glasgow,” the agency said.
“To me, it was honestly just a hotel, a place to sleep,” Nathan Wendzel, 33, a helicopter pilot who spent a night at the Trump Turnberry last September with about 35 other members of his Iowa National Guard unit, told the Times. “It is better than a tent with no air conditioning.”
Brig. Gen. Edward Thomas, the Air Force’s top spokesman, said earlier in the week that crews staying near the airport “adhered to all guidance and procedures” but that it was conducting a review because “we understand that U.S. Service members lodging at higher-end accommodations, even if within government rates, might be allowable but not advisable.”
The Air Force said the refueling deal with the airport includes standardized fuel prices and listed the number of flights stopping there starting in 2015—two years before Trump took office. A flight directive was issued in 2017 to increase efficiencies by using standardized routing locations and Prestwick was among the top five recommended locations because of favorable weather, low congestion, and a large parking area, Thomas said.
The Air Force said aircraft stayed at Prestwick a total of 936 times, including 659 overnight stays, between 2015 and 2019.
That included 95 times, including 40 overnight stays, in 2015; 145 times, including 75 overnight stays, in 2016; 180 times, including 95 overnight stays, in 2017; 257 times, including 208 overnight stays in 2018; and 259 times, including 220 overnight stays, through August 2019.
The Trump property was $136 a night, coming under the Mariott property nearby, which would have been $161 a night. Both were under the per diem rate of $166, Thomas said.
The normal rate for the Trump resort is over $300 a night, indicating the Air Force received a deal for crew members staying there.
Trump Turnberry did not respond to a request for comment. Trump said on Twitter this week the situation has “nothing to do with me.”
Lawmakers have said the usage of the Trump resort could violate the emoluments clauses in the Constitution and a senior Democratic aide confirmed to The Epoch Times the House Committee on Oversight and Reform is looking at the situation as part of its overall probe.
In one of the statements, the Air Force said lodging is preferred at military installations, but many times they’re full.
“In these instances when military billeting is unavailable, to include circumstances when aircrews are transiting civil airfields, our policies guide the aircrews to stay at available locations which limit expense by remaining at or under the DoD maximum allowable rate, are suitable (for example, aircrew require lodging with “black-out” blinds in their rooms to allow for adequate rest during day-time hours if mission timing requires), and are reasonably close to the civil airfield in order to limit transit time,” Thomas said.
“For most civil airfields, there are multiple lodging options which meet these criteria, and the aircrew are assisted by US government personnel in making arrangements. Having multiple options to select from helps to ensure availability and also to avoid predictability which could be leveraged by adverse actors,” he continued.
“At some civil airfields with less populated local areas, these multiple options may vary in distance from the airfield and can require transit times up to an hour or more In some cases, these lodging options are at locations which could be considered ‘higher-end’ hotels; existing policy is that as long as the location is suitable and within the allowable DoD rate, aircrews may stay at a ‘higher end’ hotel.”