- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fresh off a campaign reboot, Donald Trump jetted to Scotland on Thursday for a trip shaping up as more a chance to see to his business dealings than to burnish his foreign policy chops on the world stage, raising questions about whether the detour could cost him back home.

The trip coincides with Britain’s vote on whether it leaves the European Union, but that is not the reason for the visit from Mr. Trump, who supports the “Exit” side of the referendum.

Instead, the New York billionaire’s three-day itinerary reads more like a promotional tour for Trump’s business empire than a campaign junket of any sort, and centers on the reopening of Trump Turnberry, a golf resort in which he has invested heavily.

“It would be unprecedented for a major party nominee to take a foreign trip exclusively for business interests, as Trump is scheduled to do this week,” said Lanhee Chen, who served as a top adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

“He ought to consider this an opportunity to burnish his foreign policy credentials by visiting other countries, meeting with foreign leaders or policy experts, and filling out his own national security policy proposals,” Mr. Chen said.

The trip in many ways is emblematic of the entire Trump candidacy, which has bucked most traditional campaign norms from get-go of the 2016 race, and caused some heartburn among GOP leaders as they gear up for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which is now less than a month away.

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But there were some signs this week that Mr. Trump was prepared to adopt a more presidential demeanor after he fired his campaign manager and delivered a stinging takedown of Hillary Clinton in a scripted speech.

The address followed a shaky stretch of the campaign for Mr. Trump in which his poll numbers have slipped.

GOP leaders recently spoke out against his criticism of a U.S.-born federal judge overseeing a case involving Trump University and his push for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. in response to the worst mass shooting in the nation’s history.

He also filed a campaign finance report that showed his campaign ended May with $40 million less than Mrs. Clinton in the bank.

The speech Wednesday, though, was well-received, and led some to question the timing of his trip to Scotland.

Austin Barbour, a GOP strategist, said Mr. Trump would be better off tightening up his fundraising operation by leveraging his speech and focusing more on the debate raging over gun control on Capitol Hill, as well as the Supreme Court’s ruling that halted President Obama’s 2014 executive amnesty.

“Why would you not be out messaging those things today, tomorrow the next day instead of playing golf in Scotland — it sends a terrible message,” Mr. Barbour said. “That is where someone in his campaign orbit has to look at him and say, ‘Boss, we cannot do this.’”

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, sought Thursday to sooth some of the concerns about his fundraising by announcing he had forgiven nearly $50 million that he had made in loans to his presidential campaign — following through on a promise to self-fund his primary run.

“I have absolutely no intention of paying myself back for the nearly $50 million I have loaned to the campaign,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “This money is a contribution made in order to Make America Great Again.”

The Trump campaign also launched the LyingCrookedHillary.com website hours before he took off for Scotland, the birthplace of his mother and the site of his golf resorts in Aberdeen and Turnberry, where the British Open has been played.

“Mr. Trump will be there opening Trump Turnberry, one of the finest resorts in the world, and the most recent development in the Trump Organization portfolio of assets, which contains some of the most valuable and iconic properties around the world,” said Hope Hicks, a campaign spokesperson.

Mr. Romney, the party’s 2012 nominee, took a more traditional approach four years ago when he scheduled an overseas trip in an attempt to burnish his foreign policy credentials and ease concerns over whether the former Massachusetts governor was up to being the face of the nation.

Mr. Romney, though, stumbled in his swing through London, Israel and Poland, underscoring how junkets overseas carry the potential for both risk and reward.

Ari Fleischer, former spokesman for President George W. Bush, said he is also a bit puzzled by the trip and its focus on his profit-making businesses instead of public service, but said there are usually two schools of thought when it comes to Mr. Trump’s behavior.

“Through the primary, the rejection of conventional wisdom worked for him,” Mr. Fleischer said. “I think Trump proponents say this proves that he is an outsider, a businessman and doesn’t do the things that politicians do.”

But he warned, “I think that is obvious by now, and time off the trail in another country is time wasted.”



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