Presidential contender Donald Trump gestures to the media on the 17th fairway on the first day of the Women's British Open golf championship on the Turnberry golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, July 30, 2015.
Photo by Scott Heppell/AP

Trump creates ethics mess by promoting Scottish property he owns

“Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great,” Michael Cohen testified to Congress last week. “He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the ‘greatest infomercial in political history.’ He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign, for him, was always a marketing opportunity.”

The Republican wasted little time proving his former personal attorney right.

President Trump sent out a predawn tweet Saturday boasting about Trump International Golf Links, constructed near Aberdeen, Scotland, among the high, wind-raked dunes along the North Sea.

“Very proud of perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world. Also, furthers U.K. relationship!” Trump tweeted.

The comment sparked immediate consternation from critics of the president, who suggested he was using his powerful office to advance his financial interests. The U.S. Constitution has two clauses designed to prevent a national leader from using power in such a manner.

I think it’s fair to say the president’s critics did more than “suggest” this was an abuse. Some were unrestrained in calling out Trump using the power of his office to advance his own financial interests.

Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics, wrote on Twitter, “This is Trump’s most explicit commingling of personal interests and public office to date…. This is shameless, corrupt and repugnant presidential profiteering.”

The larger context actually makes Trump’s online commercial quite a bit worse.

The president’s Scottish course has struggled financially for years, and while the Republican may like to pretend that his business somehow advances the relationship between the U.S. and the U.K., Trump recently lost a court fight with the Scottish government over a wind power development near the resort. The American president’s lawyers tried to block the development, and when they lost, Trump’s resort was ordered to pay the government’s legal fees.

It’s against this backdrop that the American leader thought it’d be a good idea to use his platform to promote his struggling business.

Under normal circumstances, such a brazen violation of ethics would be a pretty significant political controversy. But since Trump is also struggling with a lengthy series of unrelated scandals, this mess probably doesn’t crack the top five biggest messes surrounding his presidency.

* Postscript: It’s a longer story for another day, but as long as we’re on the subject, it’s probably worth pausing to note that there have long been some awkward questions about how Trump secured the financing for the property in Aberdeen.