Senate Democrats are demanding an investigation into whether Air Force One tours were offered to members of Trump's Florida resorts, as BuzzFeed News reported in July. In a letter to the Department of Defense and Air Force, four Democratic Senators wrote that offering private tours of the presidential plane to members of Trump's resorts would violate "the basic principle against using public office for private gain," as Trump personally earns money from those members' club dues.
"Previous Presidents have provided friends and even campaign donors to tour Air Force One, but 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," Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, Richard Blumenthal and Tom Carper wrote to the inspectors general at the Air Force and Department of Defense on Thursday.
In July, BuzzFeed News obtained what appeared to be a private invitation to tour Air Force One that was sent to certain members of the Trump International Golf Club in February 2017. A Freedom of Information Act request confirmed that two tours of Air Force One were indeed given on the time and date listed on the invitation.
"If true, these reports could mean that the President or his family have used government property for private gain — giving Air Force One tours as a perk for membership — or that some citizens have potentially been able to buy access to Air Force One via their personal payments to the President's private clubs," the Democratic senators wrote. They are demanding that the inspectors general conduct a review of everyone who's been given a tour of Air Force One since Trump took office, whether any of them have a business relationship with Trump, and whether any of the tours violate federal ethics laws.
According to BuzzFeed News, at least 14 people were offered private tours of Air Force One on Feb. 18, 2017. Although their names were redacted, eight of them had email addresses associated with a family-owned car dealership in West Palm Beach. The father and two sons who run that dealership have been members of Mar-a-lago and Trump International Golf Club in the past, BuzzFeed News reports, and one was seen playing golf with Trump two weeks before the reported tours.
BuzzFeed News says that it first got wind of the reports in 2017, and asked Stephanie Grisham — then a White House spokesperson, now first lady Melania Trump's communications director — for comment. Grisham replied that "it is common for friends/family of the president to receive tours of Air Force One" but didn't confirm that the alleged tours took place.
“This is something that has been done in past administrations going back years and is not out of the ordinary,” Grisham said. She added that, if long-time club members were invited to tour Air Force One, “then they are also most likely longtime friends of the president. You have to keep in mind that Mar-a-Lago has been the president’s home for many years.”