UPDATE: Several Democratic U.S. Senators want answers when it comes to President Donald Trump’s suspicious tours on Air Force One.
In the months after he was inaugurated, Trump reportedly gave tours to club members of his resorts inside the famous airplane. BuzzFeed News obtained knowledge about these tours through a Freedom of Information Act request, although it’s unclear whether these tours have continued, or if they stopped shortly after Trump became president.
Now, four senators want to know more details about the tours. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Tom Carper (D-Delaware), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) sent a letter to the inspectors general of the Air Force and Department of Defense urging them to look into the matter.
“Previous Presidents have provided friends and even campaign donors tours of Air Force One,” their letter conceded, “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.”
The question that must be asked is whether Trump allowed these individuals onto Air Force One because they’re friends of his, or whether his “friendship” (and the tour they got) was purchased by these individuals because of their membership dues paid to his clubs. A membership at Mar-a-Lago, for instance, costs a $200,000 initiation fee, plus $14,000 annually.
The letter from the senators goes on to request a general “review of all individuals who have had access to Air Force One for tours or other nonofficial travel” since Trump was inaugurated.
This would be a clear conflict of interest for the president, if these tours were indeed based on monetary interests rather than accommodating a few friends. The Department of Defense should honor these senators' requests and delve into these situations more closely, determining whether the president needs to be held accountable for abusing his privileges as commander-in-chief.
Did President Donald Trump set up tours to Air Force One directly to members of his private resorts? It appears that’s exactly what happened, just one month after his inauguration.
BuzzFeed News obtained copies of invitations to the president’s personal aircraft, which were given out to members of his Florida private clubs. In the past, tours to view the plane have been given out to friends, family members, and even campaign donors.
But this situation is starkly different, in that people making payments directly to a Trump property (and thus, to Trump himself) received special access to the president and his mode of transportation.
Former spokeswoman for the White House Stephanie Grisham, who spoke to BuzzFeed last year about the invites, tried to play it off at the time as no big deal.
“It is common for friends/family of the President to receive tours of Air Force One,” she wrote in an email to the news agency.
She added that club members who received the invites “are also most likely longtime friends of the President.”
That may be true, but there are also implications that Trump is rewarding friends, who are also customers of his, with access to the famed airplane due more to their financial ties than their friendship.
This is ethically unheard of. The president should not be rewarding patrons of his businesses with access to him and government amenities — and doing so should make people question whether he’s willing to bend policy in favor of those who pay to be resort members at his properties.
Of course, Trump won’t care about this breach of ethics — he’s already indicated many times that he believes the rules of past administrations don’t apply to him. It’s up to the American people, then, through vociferous opposition to unethical actions, as well as their voices of disapproval in ballot boxes across the country, to put a stop to Trump’s depraved standards.