The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has slammed the brakes on a controversial airplane refueling arrangement with a Scottish airport amidst widespread scrutiny over the increasingly suspect deal.
According to The Scotsman reporter Martyn McLaughlin, DOD officials have postponed a multi-million dollar refueling agreement between the DOD and Scottish government-owned Glasgow Prestwick Airport. This pause comes against the backdrop of several congressional and media inquiries into the contours of that arrangement–as well as the massive expenditure of public funds at President Donald Trump‘s Turnberry golf course and hotel.
Critics have seized on the news out of Scotland in recent days to level allegations of corruption at the White House door. News reports of extended U.S. government stays at Turnberry and apparently unnecessary stopovers at Prestwick, those critics allege, suggest a pattern of self-dealing leading directly to President Trump himself.
Top House Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have called for Trump’s impeachment over the matter–with overtones of old school political patronage and graft.
On Tuesday, the Democratic Party-led House Oversight Committee issued a paper warning to the Department of Defense threatening to subpoena records related to the Prestwick Airport and Turnberry resort situations. Democrats on the committee have been demanding such responsive records since June of this summer.
“These reports raise questions about the President’s potential receipt of U.S. or foreign government emoluments in violation of the U.S. Constitution and raise other serious conflict of interest concerns,” they said.
As the controversy simmers, the refueling arrangement has seemingly been put on something not entirely unlike hiatus.
An anonymous source cited by the Scotsman reportedly familiar with the deal claims that it’s been “kicked into the long grass.”
That report notes:
[T]he expanded EUCOM Into-Plane agreement covering the Scottish-Government owned airport and the US Defence [sic] Logistics Agency (DLA), which was due to come into force in a matter of weeks, has been put on hold until December at the earliest.
DOD officials confirmed the suspension but pushed back against claims that the deal had been scuttled or even delayed.
According to Politico, unnamed DLA officials claim the agreement was postponed because “most locations require site inspections and extensive negotiations.”
“[B]oth the DLA Energy Technical and Contracting teams have a limited number of team members who are simultaneously working on multiple expansive programs,” that anonymous official added.
The DLA now says it hopes to renegotiate and sign off on the terms of the agreement–which originally went into effect in 2016–sometime in November of this year at the latest.
A spokesperson for Prestwick Airport more or less echoed that line: “The existing DLA approval has been extended by two months, until 30 November 2019. This is a European wide extension and not specific to the Glasgow Prestwick Airport location.”
But the Scotsman‘s source is calling shenanigans on those excuses.
“The DLA’s excuse for the delay is that it is slightly behind schedule in determining contract renewals,” the source said. “That’s nonsense. They don’t want to do anything until the Congressional committee’s investigation has concluded.”
And, McLaughlin noted, it’s likely that such refueling stops are about to become as scarce as Scottish independence:
[O]ne source said the “political heat” meant it was likely US Air Mobility Command movements through Prestwick would reduce in number as they are routed through other European locations.
[image via Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images]