The Slatest

Trump Told U.S. Ambassador to Get U.K. Government Help Steering British Open to His Resort

President Donald Trump plays a round of golf at Trump Turnberry on July 14, 2018.
President Donald Trump plays a round of golf at Trump Turnberry on July 14, 2018. Andy Buchanan/Getty Images

The umpteenth example of President Donald Trump trying to profit off the presidency comes via the New York Times, which reports that in 2018 Trump pressured his newly appointed ambassador to the U.K., Woody Johnson, to try to get the British government to help steer the British Open golf tournament to his Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland. The British government doesn’t normally have anything to do with the selection of the venue for the high-profile yearly tournament, which, as a major driver of publicity and interest, could have been a financial boon for the Trump-owned course. But that’s how Trump sees government generally and his position within it specifically—something to be leveraged for personal gain. You’d like to think that the American ambassador, as a representative of his country, upon hearing such an improper, unethical request, disregarded the president’s desire for a personal favor. But you’d be wrong.

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Johnson had only been in the plum diplomatic posting a few months at the time and, according to the Times, felt pressure to try to fulfill Trump’s whim. Johnson, a billionaire in his own right as an heir to pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and owner of the NFL’s New York Jets, took up the issue with the secretary of state for Scotland, which represents the nation in the Cabinet of the British government. The British government said in a statement that no official ask was made of it to help steer the tournament Trump’s way, but that appears to be an equivocation. Several people with knowledge the incident told the Times the topic was broached by the American ambassador. Also, Deputy Chief of Mission Lewis Lukens, a career diplomat, raised the issue at the time in an email to officials at the State Department. Lukens, a former ambassador to Senegal, was forced out of his job several months later. The Trump course has not been named to host any of the upcoming British Opens for which locations have been announced.

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