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EDITORIAL: Chasing Shadows

It’s just 26 miles from the White House to the Loudoun County line, but the distance seems shorter these days. Events -- one planned, others unexpected -- bring attention to a county that lives in the shadow of the nation’s capital.

The planned event is the Senior PGA Championship at Trump National Golf Club Washington D.C. next week. Note that address. The owner of the club wanted to make an impression. Apparently “Sterling” wasn’t shiny enough.Trump bought Lowes Island Golf Club, renamed it after himself and then decided it would be cooler if 800 acres of wetlands in Loudoun County were relocated by name in the District of Columbia.

Rather than move the course, Donald Trump invented his own geography for it, confounding the residents of Lowes Island, Cascades and Potomac Falls, all of whom thought they knew were they lived.

Trump disputes facts with his own version of them. He also created a story about the “river of blood,” a Civil War battle that purportedly took place on the golf course property overlooking the Potomac. Never happened, county historians told the Times-Mirror. But it must be true because Trump says so. He validated his tale with a monument between the 14th hole and 15th tee celebrating himself, shocking no one.

Loudouners aren’t keen about messing with their history. Listen to Randy Minchew, a Republican state delegate from Leesburg and local history buff. “Nothing binds us as Virginians more than our common love of honest history and we rightfully take offense when our history is purposefully skewed or sugar-coated,” he wrote the Times-Mirror. “To us, such action is equivalent to turning back the odometer on a used car and then marketing it to the unsuspecting public.”

All is apparently forgiven now that the Senior PGA arrives. Professional golfers, sponsors, some 25,000 spectators, national media and two television networks descend on Trump National next week for the county’s first major professional sporting event. But for the disruption of a quiet corner of the county, Loudoun will be in the limelight. Sponsors say it will generate an economic benefit of $25 million and bring attention to our dynamic county.

Attention also arrives with unanticipated news: Andrew McCabe, the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the investigation of the administration’s ties to Russia. McCabe, an Ashburn resident and currently the acting director of the FBI, is a central figure in the web of intrigue that leads to the White House. We expect to learn soon if he will be nominated to replace his former boss.

Curiously, the intrigue also leads to golf courses. The Charlotte Observer disclosed this week that Trump’s son Eric said the Trump Organization relied on Russian backers to finance the family’s golf empire, including the $3 million purchase of The Point Lake and Golf Club, which Trump re-branded as Trump National Golf Club, Charlotte. The course isn’t actually in Charlotte. It’s in Mooresville, N.C. Familiar story?

Reacting to the claim, a Trump Organization spokesperson told the Observer that the firm paid cash for the North Carolina golf property and used no outside financing. But it was not the first time one of Trump’s sons has spoken publicly about the importance of Russian capital to the family’s golf empire. At a real estate conference in 2008, Donald Trump Jr. said in a widely circulated comment that Russian money was “pouring in” to the Trump golf business.

The FBI would not comment on whether any possible Russian connections to Trump golf courses were being investigated as part of the agency’s broader probe, The Observer reported.

Trump bought Lowes Island Golf Club in 2009 for $13 million and has reportedly has invested at least $25 million in the property. Trump claims the property is now worth $100 million. The Loudoun County assessor’s office put the property value at $23.7 million in its 2016 assessment for real estate taxes.

Golf courses, Russia connections and the FBI -- all part of the intrigue and unprecedented interconnections conflicting the Trump presidency.

A shadow is the dark shape that appears on a surface when someone or something moves between the surface and a source of light. At this moment, we chase shadows.

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