Trump's UK exemption to travel restrictions raises eyebrows

Why did Trump exempt the United Kingdom from his travel restrictions? Does it have anything do with Trump-owned properties?
Image: Queen Elizabeth and President Donald Trump inspect the guard of honor at Windsor Castle in England on July 13, 2018.
Queen Elizabeth and President Donald Trump inspect the guard of honor at Windsor Castle in England on July 13, 2018.Matt Dunham / AFP - Getty Images file
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By Steve Benen

One of the most newsworthy elements of Donald Trump's Oval Office address on the coronavirus came early on, with an announcement about new European travel restrictions.

"There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom."

The White House clarified soon after that the president talked about prohibitions on trade and cargo, Trump actually meant the opposite of what he said. But there was another lingering question: why is the United Kingdom exempt from the administration's new restrictions?

NBC News' report noted, "Ireland and the U.K. are exempt, although it is not clear why because the virus is also present in Britain."

Quite right. In fact, according to the latest tallies, the United Kingdom has among the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the region. As Rachel and Ron Klain discussed on the show last night, many European countries with far fewer confirmed cases are now subject to the administration's restrictions.

For now, this is a question without an obvious answer, and the White House brought no clarity to the matter last night. That said, Politico published a report overnight with a provocative headline: "Trump's travel ban sidesteps his own European resorts."

President Donald Trump's new European travel restrictions have a convenient side effect: They exempt nations where three Trump-owned golf resorts are located.... The U.S. government proclamation initiating the ban targets 26 European countries that comprise a visa-free travel zone known as the Schengen Area.... The United Kingdom, which is home to Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links, and Ireland, which is home to another Trump-branded hotel and golf course at Doonbeg, do not participate in the Schengen Area.

Let's hope this had nothing to do with the White House's new policy.