Donald Trump continues to treat the United States presidency as yet another private business venture to screw up, but some Democratic U.S. Senators are aiming to curtail those activities. Recently, BuzzFeed broke the news of Trump club members being invited to tour the official presidential aircraft, Air Force One. Now, a small group of prominent Senate Democrats want inspectors general overseeing relevant areas to determine whether that invitation was appropriate and within the confines of the law.
‘Previous Presidents have provided friends and even campaign donors tours of Air Force One, but the reports that members of the President’s private club may have received such tours are particularly troubling because their relationship to the President arises out of an ongoing business relationship with the President.’
Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Tom Carper of Delaware, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island all signed onto the letter for the acting inspector general overseeing the Department of Defense and the inspector general covering the Air Force. The Senators want the inspectors general to review all tours of Air Force One, and, among other specifics, determine which tour guests had business relationships with the president and how those connections may have illegally weighed on their access to the plane. They did not, in their August 1 letter, mention a time they would like an update by.
As the Senators noted in their letter, federal ethics rules prohibit federal officials from using “the public office for private gain.” Trump has, though, maintained his “private gains” while in office, infamously keeping his financial stake in his businesses while simply passing off executive control to his sons Eric and Donald Jr. Thus, the president himself has a very real monetary connection to members of his private clubs like Mar-a-Lago.
The original tours that BuzzFeed reported on and that sparked the Senators’ concern were set at Palm Beach International Airport for 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on February 18, 2017. That same day, Trump held what BuzzFeed identifies as his first 2020 campaign rally at the Orlando-Melbourne International Airport.
The location sits in close proximity to both Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and his golf club in West Palm Beach. When pressed by BuzzFeed, individuals believed to have been a part of the tours declined to discuss them. The White House itself refused to either confirm or deny the tours ever happened as well.
The scrutiny over the tours is not the first the White House has faced because of the president’s business connections.
Among other examples, the attorneys general of Washington, D.C., and Maryland have sued the president over the foreign money — aka “emoluments” — benefiting his businesses while he’s in office. Just recently, via an approval for the case to move forward, that suit produced the first federal judicial decision as to what the president is and isn’t allowed to take in from foreign interests while in office. Now, the question to be formally answered is just whether the president has actually illegally benefited from foreign emoluments or not.
Featured Image via YouTube screenshot