Donald Trump’s Turnberry firm paid £11,000 by US State Department for rooms over summer
The US State Department authorised the payment, worth more than £11,000, for rooms at Trump Turnberry over the next three weeks.
It is the first such payment made by the US federal government to Mr Trump’s struggling property in nearly a year, and comes amid growing unrest in the US Congress over the spending of US taxpayers’ money at the president’s companies.
Since Mr Trump entered office, the State Department has made at least four separate payments to Turnberry’s corporate entity. The latest brings the total spend to more than £75,000.
Ethics watchdogs warned the American public was “effectively subsidising” Mr Trump’s company, which has yet to turn a profit under his ownership, and said the 73-year-old was becoming “more and more brazen about using the presidency to advance his businesses.”
However, the Trump Organisation told The Scotsman that it did not profit from US government custom at its properties.
The latest payment was made to SLC Turnberry Limited, which has just two directors - Mr Trump’s sons, Eric, and Donald Jr.
Mr Trump himself stood down as a director of the firm in January 2017, but the way the business is structured ensures he remains its ultimate owner via a New York-based state grantor trust. It in turn has just two trustees - Mr Trump and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organisation’s chief financial officer.
Turnberry has racked up millions of pounds of losses across each of the four years since Mr Trump bought the resort in 2014.
According to Companies House filings, its parent firm was in the red by almost £3.4m in 2017. The latest accounts are due to be published this autumn.
Federal procurement records seen by The Scotsman specify the new payment, worth $13,835 (£11,097), is for “hotel accommodation” at Trump Turnberry over the period of 3 July to 1 August.
As with previous payments made to SLC Turnberry Limited, the purchase order - described as a “simplified acquisition” - was sanctioned by the State Department, and approved via the US Embassy in London.
The money was routed on 3 July from the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, the body charged with implementing US. foreign policy and promoting US interests in Europe.
While Mr Trump is not expected to make a visit to the property this summer, the president’s second son, Eric, is a regular at the South Ayrshire resort in his capacity as executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organisation.
The 35-year-old has effectively assumed responsibility for overseeing the company’s global portfolio of golf resorts since his father became president.
The Trump administration is facing a growing backlash stateside over US government payments made to properties ultimately owned by the president.
Last month, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programmes ratified an amendment to legislation which controls the State Department’s budget which, in theory, bans federal spending at Mr Trump’s firms.
Democrats on the House of Representatives sub-committee approved the measure by 231 votes to 187. The amendment also prevents payments to Mr Trump’s inaugural Scottish resort, Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire.
The amendment was brought forward by Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, who said Mr Trump should not be able to profit from his presidency and warned that his refusal to divest himself of his businesses raised “serious questions” about his compliance with the domestic emoluments clause.
However, the tweak to the State and Foreign Operations Bill will have to be approved by the Senate before it comes into law, a prospect regarded as unlikely given the upper chamber of Congress remains under the control of Republicans.
Last year, other leading Democrats, including senator Elizabeth Warren, who hopes to secure her party’s nomination for the 2020 presidential race, cited The Scotsman’s revelations about the first tranche of Turnberry payments when calling for a wide ranging investigation and audit of State Department and Department of Homeland Security spending at Trump properties.
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a progressive watchdog group based in the US capital, told The Scotsman: “President Trump has become more and more brazen about using the presidency to advance his businesses, and the lines between his official position, his family, and his businesses have all but evaporated.
“Whether it’s using official travel and statements to promote his businesses, making his properties a part of international diplomacy, or the government directly paying his properties, the president, his administration, and his family have continued to show that they have no concerns about the ethical and constitutional issues created by mixing his businesses with the presidency.”
Brendan Fischer, federal reform director at the Campaign Legal Centre, a Washington DC-based non-partisan political watchdog, said: “This appears to be a reminder of how the American people are effectively subsidizing the president’s family business, which creates the appearance of public resources being used for private gain.”
Last summer, The Scotsman, detailed a series of payments made by the State Department to SLC Turnberry Limited.
The first, for $10,113 (£8,112), was approved on 5 April 2018, followed by $39,602 (£31,768) and $30,074 (£24,125) on 10 and 11 July respectively.
The latter two payments were for hotel accommodation for Mr Trump and key members of his administration. The president was photographed playing two rounds of golf during his two night stay at Turnberry, part of his visit to the UK.
It is understood the April payment related to a visit to Turnberry by Eric Trump. the executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organisation.
A spokeswoman for the Trump Organisation said: “The Trump Organisation does not profit on government business and bills all services at cost.”
It not clarify the ‘at cost’ rate, the details of the State Department booking, or the identity of the visiting party when asked by The Scotsman.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.