Senator wants Air Force to ban airmen from staying at Trump resorts while flying missions

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A Democratic lawmaker wants Air Force secretary nominee Barbara Barrett to prohibit airmen from staying at hotels owned by President Donald Trump during mission-related stopovers.

Politico reporters Natasha Bertrand and Bryan Bender first brought to light that Congress investigating why seven airmen stayed at Trump's Turnberry resort in March during a layover in Scotland.


On Sept. 9, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Acting Air Force Secretary Matthew Donovan ordered the head of Air Mobility Command to review of how it determines which airports and hotels to use for overnight stops.

"The National Defense Strategy requires the Department of Defense and its personnel to exercise efficiency and fiscal prudence when spending taxpayer dollars," Goldfein and Donovan wrote in their memo ordering the review. "Doing so is critical to our maintaining the trust and confidence of the American people and Congress."

During Barrett's confirmation hearing on Thursday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he had learned service members and Defense Department civilians spent $140,000 at Trump-branded properties in the first half of 2017 alone.

Barrett promised she would provide Blumenthal with a complete accounting of how much the Air Force has spent on lodging airmen at Trump resorts, but Blumenthal pressed her to go even further.

"Will you commit to using a service-wide policy to prohibit all Air Force personnel from using Trump properties for military travel whenever operationally feasible?" Blumenthal asked. "You and I discussed the appearance – wholly apart from the reality – of the president profiting from Department of Defense expenditures at properties he owns is absolutely unacceptable."

Barrett tried to avoid speaking about Trump resorts specifically by replying there need to be rules and regulations about travel dealing with the appearance of conflicts of interest that also "should not be specific to any particular owner."

Not satisfied, Blumenthal argued Trump is violating the Constitution's foreign and domestic emoluments clauses, which are meant to prevent the president and other government officials from accepting money and gifts intended to influence them. He repeated his request that Barrett issue an Air Force policy to, "Prevent the commander in chief from profiting from Department of Defense expenditures."

"I'll take a look at the rules and regulations on that and evaluate what policy should be issued," Barrett replied.

But Blumenthal issued a not-so-veiled warning to Barrett that she would have to do more than that to get his support for her nomination.

"Before your confirmation, I hope you will provide a clearer answer to this committee," he said.

Soldiers from the 1-118th Field Artillery Regiment of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fire an M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in Southern Afghanistan, June 10th, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jordan Trent)

Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)

Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.

Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.

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Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018

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The Navy and Marine Corps need to be a bit more short-sighted when assessing how many ships they need, the acting Navy secretary said this week.

The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.

"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.

The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The police officer killed during a traffic stop in Newport News on Thursday night was a well-liked young officer who just graduated from the police academy seven months ago, Police Chief Steve Drew said at a somber news conference Friday.

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