Trump’s Conflicts of Interest in the United Kingdom

Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump drives his golf buggy on the Turnberry golf course in Scotland, July 31, 2015.

A broken promise of no new deal

In 2008, the Trump Organization announced plans to move forward with construction on the Trump International Golf Links development in Aberdeen, Scotland. Plans for the golf resort featured two 18-hole courses, a 450-room hotel, 500 luxury homes, 900 time-share condos, and a golf academy.

As The Independent notes, “The resort has had a troubled history. It’s faced fierce opposition from locals, including a fisherman who became a national hero of sorts for refusing a $690,000 offer from Trump to buy his land. Environmentalists protested possible damage to Aberdeen’s dramatic dunes overlooking the wind-swept North Sea. A documentary was shot called ‘Tripping Up Trump.’”

A number of conflicts have already emerged with regard to the Aberdeen development. As the BBC observed, “Mr Trump owns two golf courses in Scotland and has recently asked Nigel Farage to oppose wind farms, not because he believed they were bad for the UK or contradicted US energy goals, but because a wind project would potentially lower the value of one of his golf courses.” In an interview with The New York Times, President Donald Trump more or less confirmed the conversation with Farage—a right-wing member of British Parliament—noting that he “might have brought it up.”

When concerns were raised about Trump’s multiple and glaring conflicts of interests before his inauguration, Trump’s lawyer pledged that he would engage in “no new foreign deals” while serving as president. However, in January 2017, it also became clear that Trump was planning a substantial expansion of his Aberdeen golf resort project, adding a second golf course and roughly doubling the number of houses and time-share condos.

As The Guardian reported, the expansion is supposed to include a new 450-room five-star hotel, as well as additional housing, all of which would increase the value of Trump’s investment immensely. Richard Painter, a former White House chief ethics adviser to George W. Bush, was quoted by The Guardian as saying that this added investment is a “perfect example” of the conflicts of interest Trump faces, further noting, “He’s using language which is ambiguous. It clearly illustrates that around the world, he will just simply expand around the various holdings and as they continue to expand, the conflicts of interest expand.”

Trump's Conflicts of Interest

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This interactive map of the world spells out President Donald Trump’s and his family’s conflicts of interest in 25 countries around the globe.

In 2014, Trump also purchased the Scottish golf course Turnberry, which has since been renamed Trump Turnberry, for about $49 million. At the June 2016 reopening event for Trump Turnberry, Trump justified his support for Brexit—the effort to leave the European Union led by a group of British politicians that included Farage and approved by British voters on June 23—not because he saw it as good for the United States or its alliances but because he believed that Brexit would weaken the British pound and thereby help to increase tourism at his Scottish golf resorts. This was a remarkable admission and a further sign that Trump views actions that weaken one of America’s most important allies as acceptable—as long as those actions help to earn him money.

Follow the paper trail

According to Trump’s July 2015 financial disclosure—which was not verified by regulators and therefore may not include all of his foreign deals or assets—Trump owned, had ownership interest in, or was a managing member of several companies related to his projects in Scotland, including the following:

  • Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd., director, chairman
  • Trump Scotland Member Inc., director, president, chairman
  • Trump International Golf Links–Scotland, owner, member, received $4,349,651 in “golf related revenue”
  • Golf Recreation Scotland Ltd., director
  • Scotland Acquisitions LLC, member, president
  • SLC Turnberry Ltd., director, chairman
  • Turnberry Scotland Managing Member Corp., director, chairman, president
  • Turnberry Scotland LLC, president
  • Trump Turnberry, owned by Golf Recreation Scotland Ltd., received $20,395,000 in “golf related revenue”
  • Nitto World Co. Ltd., director

According to Trump’s May 2016 financial disclosure—which was also not verified by regulators and therefore may not include all of his foreign deals or assets—Trump owned, had ownership interest in, or was a managing member of several companies related to his projects in Scotland, including the following:

  • Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd., director, chairman
  • Trump Scotland Member Inc., director, president, chairman
  • Trump International Golf Links–Scotland, owner, member, received $4,880,743 in “golf related revenue”
  • Golf Recreation Scotland Ltd., director
  • Scotland Acquisitions LLC, member, president
  • SLC Turnberry Ltd. (Trump Turnberry), director, chairman
  • Turnberry Scotland Managing Member Corp., director, chairman, president
  • Turnberry Scotland LLC, president
  • Trump Turnberry, owned by Golf Recreation Scotland Ltd., received $18,186,951 in “golf related revenue”
  • Nitto World Co. Ltd., director
  • DT Connect Europe Ltd., director, received between $15,001 and $50,000 in rent

Based on information from both disclosure forms, Trump was paid as much as $47.86 million in royalties from his Scotland projects over the previous two years, and he and his children will presumably continue to receive money from these businesses and business arrangements.

At a time when the United Kingdom is involved in sensitive negotiations about leaving the European Union and Scotland is again weighing the merits of an independence referendum, President Trump appears most concerned about his profits from luxury golf resorts rather than how such important foreign policy issues will impact American jobs and prosperity or the shared fight against terrorism.

Read the full series of columns here.

John Norris is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Carolyn Kenney is a policy analyst with the National Security and International Policy team at the Center.