In February 2018, Robert Wood Johnson IV, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, told several colleagues that President Trump asked him to approach the British government about having his Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland host the British Open golf tournament, three people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times.
Johnson was warned by his deputy, Lewis Lukens, that this was a bad — and unethical — idea, the Times reports, but Johnson still brought it up to David Mundell, Scotland's secretary of state. Lukens, a career diplomat who once served as ambassador to Senegal, notified State Department officials about what happened, his colleagues said, and just a few months later, Johnson forced him out of his position.
The Constitution bars federal officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments, and the Times says that if the tournament had been held at the Trump property, the British or Scottish government would have probably paid for security, which in turn would have benefited Trump monetarily. The Trumps operate 16 golf courses that generate about a third of the family's income, the Times reports. In the property's most recent annual report, Turnberry shows it lost nearly $1 million in 2018.
Johnson is the billionaire heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and a longtime Republican donor who had no previous diplomatic experience when he became ambassador. Johnson and the White House both declined to comment on the report, while Mundell told the Times it would be "inappropriate" to discuss his dealings with Johnson. In a statement, the British government said Johnson "made no request of Mr. Mundell regarding the British Open or any other sporting event," but did not say whether they discussed Turnberry. Read more at The New York Times.