Did Donald Trump's Scottish Golf Courses Break The Law?

That the year 2020 was bad for many businesses is not news. As the Economics Observatory points out, businesses were, for the most part, seriously affected by the coronavirus pandemic, even though the damage to the bottom line was not uniform. Studies show that the hardest hit industries include recreational services, restaurants, as well as the hospitality industry, all of which rely on interpersonal contact and where tasks could not be carried out from home. 

To help industries out, the U.K. spent roughly 69 billion British pounds to try and keep workers employed through its job retention scheme, according to Bloomberg. And as it turns out, two beneficiaries from the scheme were the Trump Turnberry and Trump International Scotland — two golf courses belonging to the former president — which claimed more than 3.3 million British pounds, or about $4 million worth of aid, which was meant to help establishments keep their staff employed. In spite of this, the clubs' employee head counts went from 541 to 289 during the pandemic (via BBC). 

'Government was helpful:' Eric Trump

The Trump facilities in the U.K. and Scotland already had one advantage over their counterparts at home. In the United States, Congress had passed laws banning any Trump-owned business from getting any Covid bailout money, but U.K. or Scottish laws didn't have similar provisions. As a result, the Trump properties were given the same access to funding as is competitors (via The Guardian). 

Eric Trump explained the claims and job losses in a note attached to the statement of accounts. In it, he claimed that "Government support was helpful to retain as many jobs as possible, however, uncertainty of the duration of support and the pandemic's sustained impact meant that redundancies were required to prepare the business for the long term effects to the hospitality industry."

Trump added that the U.K. government furlough scheme was "helpful to retain as many jobs as possible, and the majority of employees were reinstated over the course of the year."

The Trump clubs might have violated the Constitution

Even if the clubs did bring back all the staff they shouldn't have furloughed in the first place, there was another problem.

Because the Trump resorts applied for and received a portion of furlough money during the time Donald Trump was still serving as president, that transaction might have violated the Constitution, because there is a clause which bans anyone "holding any Office of Profit or trust" from accepting "any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State" without congressional consent (via Constitution Annotated).

Even if it is eventually proven that Trump did break a constitutional clause, Pulitzer prize-winning author David Cay Johnston told MSNBC that he believed the violation would eventually go unpunished. "Do I think the courts will do anything about it? No," he said. "We saw every federal judge presented with an emoluments case run and find other work to focus on rather than address this assault on our Constitution" (via Raw Story).