TURNBURY, Scotland – Middle-aged golfers finished their last single malt whiskey late one night this July, with bartenders shutting down.
Then the bus pulled off to the Trump Turnberry Hotel on the west coast of Scotland. with many new guests, several employees said. Goalkeepers, dressed in long feather carpets protruding from their berets, placed more than 50 uniformed servicemen in US military service.
After glancing at a fountain surrounded by stone horses and classic statues, troops piled their bags of dwarfs around the table of orchids under the crystal chandeliers of the wood-paneled lobby, checked into their rooms, and headed for the bar to begin. order their own whiskey.
The chairman of the House Oversight Committee questioned whether Turnbury's spending was a violation of the president's constitutional prohibition of state payments beyond his sal ary – a provision known as a retaliation clause. Other House Democrats said they expect the issue will now appear in their investigation into possible impeachment.
But a review of the military releases in Turnbury, including a two-day stay by a resort reporter, reveals a more complicated picture.
There is little evidence of a systematic scheme to enrich Mr Trump. But the military reservations at Turnberry are the latest in a series of episodes in which the president's private business intersects with his public position in a way he can benefit from.
The model also raises questions about how military personnel fail to anticipate issues that would accompany a large number of US military marching in the luxurious halls of one of the president's public health resorts for public spending.
Mr. Trump advocates note that US military aircraft have been shut down in the region long before Mr. Trump was elected. The Pentagon's decision to stop flying more often at the local airport was made under the Obama administration.
The military claims that the vast majority of US military personnel who passed in 2016 were staying at other hotels in the area than Mr. Trump. Those who stayed there paid a reduced rate of just $ 130 a night, compared to the typical price of about $ 380 a night.
"To me, honestly, it was just a hotel, a place to stay," said Nathan Wendzel, a 33-year-old helicopter pilot who spent one night at Trump Turnbury last September, along with about 35 other members of his unit. Iowa National Guard, returning to the United States from a trip to Kosovo. "Better than a tent without an air conditioner."
Neither Mr Trump's company nor the US military revealed how much government money was spent in Trump's resort. But a dozen Trump Turnberry officials, all speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said military stay was a common occurrence and often encompassed surprisingly large groups.
Buses like the one arriving in July periodically turn around at midnight or at 2am, carrying dozens of soldiers or infantry, several hotel staff said. Less expensive hotels, such as TraveLodge and Premier Inn, are close to the airport – the Trump Turnberry resort is about 40 minutes by car.
Reservations for US military personnel residing at the Trump resort have been made by officials at Glasgow Prestwick Airport who have an incentive to benefit from Mr Trump. The airport is economically reliant on military refueling operations, which creates at least the motive for managing the business of the commander in chief.
Michael Matheson, Scottish transport minister, told the Scottish Parliament this week that Turnberry is one of 13 hotels the airport uses and that 'Turnberry is usually only booked if other hotels are not available or if customers explicitly
But critics say the military remains at Trump Turnberry still highlight the recurring issues that have escalated. of Mr Trump's only decision to remain the owner of the business that bears his name while in high office.
Long stay from lobbyists and foreign employees at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, Vice President Mike Pence's recent stay at Trump's resort in Ireland and the president's heavily publicized outings to his own golf clubs have all been similar. At times, Mr Trump appears to be promoting his hotels at the exact moment he denies managing them with state money.
"DO NOT DO ANYTHING TO ME", Mr. Trump tweeted this week in capital letters about the military staying at their Turnberry resort before adding in brackets: "They taste good!"
Even some guests at Turnberry question the reservation. "This is completely inappropriate," said attorney Bennett Roddick, a lawyer in Chicago who watched the sunset from the hotel lobby with his wife. "You don't want him to mix his business interests with his government interests."
The United States military has used Prestwick as an intermediate position since at least World War II, in part because of the extremely long runway that the airport offers and its reputation for largely is fog-free.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower sometimes landed there, and after the war Scotland granted him permanent use of an apartment in a medieval castle not far from Turnbury, which he frequently visited. In March 1960, after completing his military service, Elvis Presley stopped at the airport for several hours and was mobilized by his fans.
But the last decade has brought experienced airport times. The cessation of US military forces has diminished since the end of the Iraq war and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. And commercial air traffic is headed to Glasgow's larger international airport. The situation became so desperate that in 2013, Prestwick Airport, deep in debt, was sold to the Scottish Government for a little over $ 1.
Mr. Trump came into the picture the next year when he bought the Turnberry Hotel and its historic golf course – the long-standing British Open home – from an Dubai-owned emirate that is reportedly worth nearly $ 70 million. Shortly after he was flying a big fan at Prestwick Airport on his Boeing 757.
He announced that his resort was making a cross-promotional deal with the airport. To make Turnberry the "best resort anywhere," he told reporters in 2014, "we need an airport."
There will be "people coming from New York, high-level people from all places – and many private jets will land with groups and individuals and we expect to use Prestwick quite a bit," Mr Trump promised.
Trump also began negotiations with Prestwick Airport officials to try to make sure they invite visiting air crews to the hotel, emails received for the first time by The Guardian in 2017. Details of the surveillance committee's investigation over the House of Commons at the resort were reported last week by Politico.
o At least for Mr Prestwick, almost nothing of Mr Trump's predictions came true, and most of the resort's clients are wealthy North Americans, along with a smaller number of Asians and others who come on package golf tours.
These days, the cavernous main passenger terminal is often almost deserted and the only airline still flying to Prestwick is the discount carrier Ryanair. Only a handful of flights come every day, mainly from relatively small European markets. No flights arrive from London, Dublin or North America.
"Years ago, we had more flights and other airlines, but it's very quiet now," says 57-year-old Margaret Vincent, removing the gates Thursday afternoon to close the empty airport.
But across the street from the United States military the states returned at least part of the business.
The Defense Logistics Agency signed a formal contract for refueling and aviation services with Prestwick in August 2016, under President Barack Obama. The treaty became substantially effective the following year after Mr Trump took office. In June federal contract records show that he made at least 925 purchases of fuel at the airport worth $ 17.3 million.
An American military aircraft – often a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft – lands or departs almost daily, according to local aircraft enthusiasts waiting at the airport to watch them.
In part because of the fueling agreement, the level of US military air traffic has increased during Trump's presidency. After 145 intermediate landings in 2016, there were 257 and 259 last year in the first eight months of this year, the Pentagon said.
The number of intermediate landings with overnight stays, leading to hotel reservation rooms, rose from 75 in 2016 to 208 last year and 220 this year to August, according to the Department of Defense.
Trump Terry may be seen as incompatible housing for the military. The white walls and red roof of the main hotel stretch over a tall ridge overlooking the rocky shore of the Irish Sea.
The windows overlook stone steps descending through hills to the golf course, with the historic Turnberry Castle and lighthouse in one direction and the surreal dome of Ailsa Craig granite jutting out from the sea into the other. Every evening at sunset, a bagpiper – also in a kilt – parades past the lobby windows, just in front of the helicopter pad.
Several military visitors complain that the resort is not a particularly convenient location. It is far from any restaurant or even a restaurant. The burger costs almost $ 26 at current exchange rates, £ 21, and blended whiskey starts at nearly $ 10 a cup. A day ticket for hotel guests to play on the signature golf course costs $ 495.
Mr. Trump visited during the 2016 presidential campaign and his staff handed out baseball caps with the slogan "Make Turnberry Great Again." Since his election, Mr. Trump and his family have also brought additional federal spending to the resort. He stayed at the hotel and played a round of golf there in July 2018, accompanied by diplomats, advisers and his secret service details.
“I have arrived in Scotland and will be in Trump Turnbury for two days of meetings, talks and hopefully some golf – my main form of exercise! ” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter during this visit. "The weather is beautiful and this place is amazing!"
Eric Trump, who helps oversee her operations, visits frequently, along with her secret service details. Asked Thursday for a stay by military personnel, Eric Trump declined to comment but praised his family's assets.
The records show payments of at least $ 64,000 to Trump Turnbery from the State Department over the last two years, although some of that money may have been recovered, according to the archives, after the trips were completed. The Trump organization said it reimburses the government for all payments made to Turnberry for these visits to federal government officials after accounting for resort spending, but declined to provide details.
President Trump, after being elected, transferred ownership of his resorts, golf courses and other properties to a trust that is controlled by his sons and company executives. But Mr Trump still benefits financially.
The resort lost $ 4.2 million in 2017, according to an annual filing in the UK, continuing a series of losses reported since Mr Trump bought it.
The club had revenue of $ 23.4 million in 2018, according to a financial statement filed in the United States, its best year since Trump's ownership. The company has not filed a profit or loss statement for the resort for 2018