U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Robert “Woody” Johnson told colleagues that President Trump pressured him in 2018 to entreat the British government to move the British Open golf tournament to the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
- “Mr. Johnson apparently felt pressured to try,” the Times reported, citing three people with knowledge of the incident.
- Johnson reportedly broached the subject weeks later with then-British Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell against the advice of Johnson’s deputy, Lewis A. Lukens, who was forced out months later.
- Mundell told the Times it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the story and the British government said Johnson, “made no request of Mr. Mundell regarding the British Open or any other sporting event,” but didn’t say whether he mentioned Turnberry.
- “The episode left Mr. Lukens and other diplomats deeply unsettled,” the Times reported, with Johnson reportedly emailing several State Department officials about it.
- The White House declined to comment to Forbes or the Times.
“It is diplomatic malpractice because once you do that, you put yourself in a compromised position,” former Obama ethics czar Norman Eisen told the Times. “They can always say, ‘Remember that time when you made that suggestion.’ No experienced diplomat would do that.”
The story comes as the latest in a long line of allegations that Trump has used the presidency to benefit his businesses. Trump’s hotel in D.C. has come under legal scrutiny centered around its alleged use as a vehicle for lobbying the White House by visiting foreign dignitaries. The story is also not the first alleged impropriety centered around Turnberry. Politico reporter Natasha Bertrand reported in September 2019 that Air National Guard crews made abnormal stops at the resort, potentially transferring millions to the Trump Organization from Defense Department coffers. More recently, Trump floated the possibility of hosting the G7 at his Doral Resort in Florida, which was also rumored to be discussed as a possible venue for the Republican convention.
While Trump cannot be prosecuted under conflict-of-interest laws that govern the actions of other government officials, he is subject to the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits federal officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments. “Experts on government ethics pointed to one potential violation of the emoluments clause that still may have been triggered by the president’s actions,” the Times reported. “The British or Scottish governments would most likely have to pay for security at the tournament, an event that would profit Mr. Trump.”