President Trump sent out a predawn tweet Saturday boasting about Trump International Golf Links, constructed near Aberdeen, Scotland, among the high, wind-raked dunes along the North Sea.
“Very proud of perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world. Also, furthers U.K. relationship!” Trump tweeted.
The comment sparked immediate consternation from critics of the president, who suggested he was using his powerful office to advance his financial interests. The U.S. Constitution has two clauses designed to prevent a national leader from using power in such a manner.
“There it is. The president is using an official statement as an ad for his business and making sure everyone knows he ties his business to US relationships with foreign countries,” tweeted Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is suing the president over these issues.
Walter Shaub, CREW’s senior adviser who formerly led the Office of Government Ethics, went further. “This is Trump’s most explicit commingling of personal interests and public office to date,” he wrote. " . . . This is shameless, corrupt and repugnant presidential profiteering. This is an invitation to graft.”
“The Framers adopted the Foreign Emoluments Clause because they were deeply concerned that the nation’s leaders might put their financial self-interest above the national interest,” Brianne J. Gorod, chief counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center, tweeted in response to Trump’s message.
Trump’s missive embedded an earlier tweet from the Trump Organization that quoted Martin Hawtree praising the “landscape framework” of the course and saying “there are no weak holes.” Hawtree is hardly a neutral observer: He’s the course architect, according to a 2007 announcement on the Trump International Golf Links website.
Trump’s Aberdeen course opened in 2012 after a protracted battle with some local land owners who did not want to sell their property at prices offered by Trump. In recent years, it has become a gathering place for protesters. Two neighbors of the course flew Mexican flags on their properties in a rebuke to the president.
The course has long been touted by Trump as a masterpiece of golf architecture. It’s located in a remote part of Scotland that is regularly punished by wind and shrouded in fog. But the setting amid the rugged dunes is certainly striking. The Washington Post reported in 2016 that golfers say they feel “as if they are playing by themselves on the edge of the earth, as other tees are hidden away by the rolling landscape.”
The Aberdeen golf course was the Trump Organization’s first course in Europe. He bought the property in 2006. The aim was to draw customers from oil field companies based in Aberdeen, but the North Sea oil patch has declined in recent years. Financial records tell an unhappy story: Figures released by the British government show Trump’s course has lost money every year, and Trump needed to sink more and more money into the project to keep it alive.
The most recent figures show he’s spent more than $69 million there — all in cash, no mortgage. The course, which Trump had promised would create 6,000 jobs, employs about 84 people.
Later, Trump bought the more famous — and better-located — Turnberry course in another corner of Scotland. The Trump Organization has sunk $200 million into the project without turning a profit.
In his Saturday tweet, Trump claimed that the Aberdeen course improves relations with the United Kingdom. The reality is that it has incited a long-running feud between Trump and the Scottish government because of Trump’s opposition to a wind farm planned just off the coast. Trump sued the Scottish government over the wind farm, claiming it would hurt the views from the golf course, and he lost. The wind farm has begun operation. Just days ago, a Scottish court ruled Trump will have to pay the Scottish government back for the legal costs associated with the lawsuit.
Jenna Johnson contributed to this report.