The Trump administration says it's perfectly normal to invite private for-profit club members on tours of Air Force One.
The White House is refusing to say whether Trump invited members of his private for-profit club to tour Air Force One — but it's also defending such invitations by claiming they are common practice.
According to Buzzfeed, it appears that invitations to tour Air Force One were sent to members of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club last year. Newly-acquired documents show that tours of the plane did, in fact, take place on the date noted on the invitations.
The names of the people on the tour were redacted, and the White House has refused to confirm that they were club members.
But when the White House was first contacted about the invitations last year, a spokeswoman defended them anyway:
Without confirming or denying, Stephanie Grisham, then a spokeswoman for the White House who now works for the first lady, said in an e-mail, “It is common for friends/family of the President to receive tours of Air Force One.”
“This is something that has been done in past administrations going back years and is not out of the ordinary,” she wrote, adding that if the invitation was sent to long-time club members, “then they are also most likely longtime friends of the President."
Grisham's defense is absurd, since no previous president owned a private for-profit club whose members could be given perks like a private tour of Air Force One. That defense is also belied by the White House's refusal to admit whether club members were, in fact, given tours of Air Force One.
This revelation fits with Trump's history of using the presidency as a source of grift for his private club, a practice he has engaged in even since before assuming office.
Membership fees to the club were doubled just after the election. And after just weeks in office, Trump came under fire for using a summit with Japan's prime minister as a "free global infomercial" for the club.
Taxpayers have also been billed for expenses at Mar-a-Lago for every trip Trump has made there. And Trump has made a regular habit of visiting his other properties while traveling, boosting their profits as well.
Trump has also used the government for the club's benefit by exempting Florida — and Mar-a-Lago — from his offshore drilling plans, and by preserving the immigrant visas he uses to hire foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago while cracking down on others.
Mar-a-Lago members have been granted access to Trump, and been given a front-row seat to unfolding national security situations. Those members have responded by cheering wildly for the prospect of a Trump presidency "for life."
The Trump administration's constant grifting has long been an embarrassment — but the White House's insistence that it's normal is just an insult. Nothing about this is normal, nor should it ever be.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.