Trump asked US ambassador to persuade Westminster to hold the British Open at his Scottish golf course

PUBLISHED: 17:06 22 July 2020 | UPDATED: 20:45 22 July 2020

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House; AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House; AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Donald Trump asked the US ambassador to the UK to persuade Westminster to hold a major golfing tournament at his luxury resort in Scotland.

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Trump tasked ambassador Woody Johnson with swaying UK diplomats to hold the next British Open at his golf course in Turnberry, Scotland.

Johnson went against official embassy advice and met with the UK’s minister for Scotland, David Mundell, in February 2018 and subsequently failed to get his backing.

US President Donald Trump plays a round of golf on the Trump Turnberry resort in South Ayrshire; Jane BarlowUS President Donald Trump plays a round of golf on the Trump Turnberry resort in South Ayrshire; Jane Barlow

The ambassador - a prolific Republican donor and heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical empire - was advised against the move by his deputy, Lewis A. Lukens who was later fired for sharing his concerns in an email to State Department officials.

As it stands, nothing in US law can stop the president from earning a living off personal assets he promotes but the Constitution does prohibit federal officials from accepting gifts, or “emoluments” - that is, a salary - from foreign governments, which Trump would have made had the tournament gone ahead.

This is not the first time the president has tried to sway politicians to hold a major event at one of his properties.

Last year, the White House chose the Trump National Doral resort in Miami as the site of a G7 meeting. The president later canned the idea after it ignited a political storm in the US.

He also insisted vice president Mike Pence and his family stay at his Doonbeg property in Ireland when the senior White House figure visited on official business, which took place on the other side of the country.

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Trump has visited his family-owned golf courses more than 275 times since taking office, bringing reporters with him each time to ensure overage of the resorts.

Johnson’s actions drew fierce criticism from former special counsel to Barack Obama, Norman L. Eisen, who said they amounted to “diplomatic malpractice”.

“Once you do that, you put yourself in a compromised position,” he explained.

“They can always say, ‘Remember that time when you made that suggestion.’ No experienced diplomat would do that.”

Neither the State Department nor the embassy addressed the accusations, but the department said Johnson had led the embassy “honourably and professionally”.

In a statement, it said, “We stand by ambassador Johnson and look forward to him continuing to ensure our special relationship with the U.K. is strong.”

A spokesman for the R&A, which has a say in where major golfing tournaments are held in the UK, said they had not been approached about the request.

The White House has declined to comment while Mundell said it was “inappropriate” for him to discuss his dealings with Johnson and denied the topic was ever broached.

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