Peters calls on Defense Department to investigate Pence travel

    Gary Peters (left) and Donald Trump (right) | Michael Gerstein and Wikimedia Commons

    This week, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) called upon the U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate the U.S. Air Force spending taxpayer money on traveling to President Trump’s hotels and resorts.

    President Donald J. Trump stands with U.S. Air Force officers at the conclusion of the 2019 U.S. Air Force Academy Graduation Ceremony Thursday, May 30, 2019, at the U.S. Air Force Academy-Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo. | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead, Flickr

    As ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters is asking for an independent investigation to find out whether or not the military has violated any laws or regulations in relation to taxpayer-funded travel to property directly financially supporting the president.

    “I am disturbed by the growing number of those in government willing to engage in questionable taxpayer funded travel to and lodging at properties owned by the President — properties from which President Trump can draw income at any time,” Peters wrote in a letter to Acting Inspector General of the Department of Defense Glenn A. Fine.

    Peters is seeking reelection in 2020 for a second term in the Senate. His likely GOP opponent is businessman John James. 

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    Concerns about government officials spending taxpayer funds on lodging and travel financially benefiting the president spiked when Vice President Mike Pence stayed at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland last week.

    Vice President Mike Pence arrives at Joint Base Andrews Tuesday June 25, 2019 | Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen, Flickr

    The detour to Trump’s club cost taxpayers almost $600,000 in ground transportation fees, according to watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). 

    In March, crew members of a C-17 military transport plane stayed at Trump Turnberry Golf Resort in Scotland in order to refuel at Prestwick Airport in Scotland. 

    The resort is about 20 miles from the airport, but according to Peters in his letter, stops in this area were uncommon for the Air Force’s purposes before Trump took office.

    Since Trump took office, data from the Air Force shows overnight stays at Prestwick have increased threefold, Peters said in his letter. 

    Turnberry Golf Resort | Wikimedia Commons

    Rates for one night at the Scotland resort average upwards of $350 a night. Peters questioned whether these stays fit the Air Force’s allowable expenses.

    “The Armed Forces are charged with the critical duty of defending our nation. They protect our most important values and they are charged with representing them as well. Potentially unnecessary spending by the military at a for-profit business owned by the President raises serious concerns about conflicts of interest and threatens the trust that the American people have placed in our military,” Peters wrote. 

    “Taxpayers should never be forced to wonder whether our Armed Forces are making decisions based on operational concerns or to curry favor by prioritizing the President’s business interests.”

    Anna Liz Nichols
    Anna Liz Nichols covers criminal justice, the environment and the Legislature. She has reported for several publications, including MLive and Michigan State University’s award-winning student paper, the State News, where she covered the many tendrils of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. She is finishing up a degree in journalism and environmental studies at Michigan State University, graduating May 2020.

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