Donald Trump made $82.5 million from his businesses in Ireland and Scotland while serving as president, according to a CREW analysis of his tax returns. All of this revenue came with extraordinary conflicts of interest, mixing Trump’s personal financial interests with the national interests of the United States. Trump raked in over one billion dollars in income during his four years in office, with up to $160 million in total coming from businesses in foreign countries with interest in U.S. foreign policy.
When Trump became president, he made the unprecedented decision not to divest from his business empire, leading to four years of egregious conflicts of interest between his business and the government. Some of his worst conflicts arose around his Doonbeg golf course in Ireland, where he made almost $25 million, and his Turnberry and Aberdeen golf properties in Scotland, which helped him make more than $58 million.
The three properties—all bought in cash deals—are among the biggest liabilities of his empire. While Trump “spent more than $300 million in cash purchasing and developing” Aberdeen and Turnberry, neither has turned a profit and both have hemorrhaged money from the Trump Organization since their purchase. In 2020, Doonbeg reported its first ever operating profit of just €2,939, or roughly $3,240 at the time.
With his properties in the British Isles hurting the Trump Org’s bottom line, Trump took every chance he got as president to promote them through stays footed by U.S. taxpayers and relentless promotion to the media. With each visit Trump extracted every penny he could from the U.S. government, charging the Secret Service “exorbitant” rates for rooms and tacking on additional charges.
During a 2018 European visit, Trump made a detour to Scotland to spend two nights at Turnberry between a NATO summit in Brussels–where he called the property “magical” on the world stage–and a meeting with President Vladamir Putin in Helsinki. After this trip it was revealed that Turnberry charged the Secret Service a “furniture removal charge” of $1,300.
The following year Trump made the “convenient” choice to stay at Doonbeg in Ireland during engagements in Britain, Ireland, and France. Trump’s claims of convenience were undermined when the Irish Times reported that Trump insisted on flying over Doonbeg in Marine One to inspect it, and that he even spoke to local officials about its role in the local economy.
As Trump repeatedly patronized his properties, other officials followed suit. Vice President Mike Pence similarly stayed at Doonbeg in 2019, which raised eyebrows at the time of the trip given the resort’s inconvenient location across the country from his government meetings in Dublin. FOIA records obtained by CREW later revealed that Doonbeg charged the Secret Service over $15,000. Pence’s chief of staff said Trump suggested Pence stay at the resort.
Soon after Pence’s stay, news broke that an Air Force crew stopped to stay at Turnberry on the way to and back from a routine trip to Kuwait. Further reporting uncovered this was part of a pattern of up to 40 stays, and that from August 2017 to July 2019 military expenditures at Trump’s property “‘amounted to $124,578.96’ — plus [sic] ‘an additional $59,729.12’ in unspecified charges to government travel cards.”
While Trump may not have had as much time to visit his properties across the Atlantic Ocean as much as his hotels, clubs and golf courses in the U.S., he still utilized his platform as president to sell his properties to the world. In his four years as president, Trump and members of his administration mentioned Doonbeg, Turnberry and Aberdeen 50 times. In one instance, Trump reportedly pushed his ambassador to Britain to urge UK officials to hold the British Open golf tournament at his Turnberry resort.
During a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg, President Trump mentioned “the great Turnberry,” as well as his Aberdeen and Doonbeg golf resorts. During his 2018 European visit Trump referenced Doonbeg in a meeting with the Irish Prime Minister, and discussed Turnberry during a joint press conference with UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Trump reportedly “boasted” about his UK properties in previous conversations with the prime minister.
Trump even boasted about his businesses while attempting to diffuse allegations of conflicts of interest. When asked about Pence’s stay at Doonbeg Trump denied having anything to do with the Vice President’s lodging decision but still managed to work in a promotion for the property, saying “It’s a great place … it’s Doonbeg. I own it. It’s in Ireland. It’s beautiful. It’s wonderful.” Trump took to Twitter to claim he “[knew] nothing” about “the [Air Force crew] staying overnight at Turnberry,” but added that the military personnel had “good taste!”
As Trump campaigns for president again, he has returned to his old methods of advertising his properties. Trump visited Scotland and Ireland in May to “see and inspect” his golf courses and celebrate the opening of a new golf course at Aberdeen. “The golf courses and hotels are among the greatest in the world – Turnberry and Aberdeen in Scotland, and Doonbeg in Ireland,” Trump wrote to his millions of followers on Truth Social.
The visit and corresponding promotion were covered by news organizations around the world.