September 17, 2019
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Air Force review comes after Maine Air National Guard unit stays at Trump resort

Anthony Brino | BDN
Anthony Brino | BDN
Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, speaks at a 2016 news conference in Limestone in this file photo.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine Air National Guard unit’s one-night stay at President Donald Trump’s Scotland resort in 2018 is part of an U.S. Air Force review into how it handles layovers, according to a Politico report Monday.

The news outlet reported that the Maine unit was coming back to the U.S. in September 2018 from an air base in Qatar when it landed at an airport close to the Republican president’s Turnberry resort, where the crew spent the night.

The Air Force told Politico it appeared the crew “adhered to all guidance and procedures,” but that it was reviewing whether service members are following rules about overnight stays and if staying at Trump properties created the appearance of a conflict of interest.

News of the stay comes amid allegations that Trump, a Republican, is profiting on the presidency. A Maryland-led lawsuit claiming he violated the Constitution by taking money from officials staying at his Washington, D.C., hotel was dismissed by an appeals court in July.

The Democratic-led House Oversight Committee has been probing at least one other military trip to the Scotland resort, according to Politico. That trip was one earlier this year by Alaska Air National Guard unit that was going from the U.S. to Kuwait. Trump tweeted on Monday that he knew “nothing” about one trip to the resort, but it was unclear which one he was discussing.

A central figure in the Maryland lawsuit was former Maine Gov. Paul LePage. The Portland Press Herald found earlier this year his administration spent at least $22,000 on rooms and other expenses including for LePage and staff over a dozen trips to the hotel starting in March 2017. He later said he was not aware of the highest rates charged during that time.

Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham, the adjutant general of the Maine National Guard who served under LePage and was reappointed by his successor, Democrat Janet Mills, said he had “never heard any discussion about Trump resorts” — except LePage’s trips — during his time with the state until the Politico story crossed his desk Monday.

But Farnham said in his experience, service members traveling overseas are typically only concerned with finding a hotel that offers “government rates” — a rate negotiated by the U.S. government that will be reimbursed — and don’t pay much attention to which hotel it is.

The Air Force told Politico it was reviewing layovers in part because “lodging at higher-end accommodations, even if within government rates, might be allowable but not advisable.”

Farnham said he assumed his unit handled the layover “like I’ve seen done and done myself,” but he said the Maine Air National Guard would “look to make sure the guys did what’s right.”

 



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