The Secret Service has spent nearly $2 million of taxpayer money at Trump properties, literally paying Donald Trump for the right to protect him and his family, according to government records obtained and analyzed by CREW. Newly acquired records show roughly $1.75 million being paid to Trump’s businesses; however, these records appear to be incomplete. Previously published records, by CREW and others, which do not appear to be included in the documents, account for thousands more in Secret Service spending at Trump properties, bringing the likely grand total closer to $2 million.
One of the biggest sources of expenses was Mar-a-Lago, the so-called Winter White House. The documents, obtained by CREW through the Freedom of Information Act, show the Secret Service paying Trump’s private club more than $300,000 to protect him and his family there. Over his presidency, Trump made an astounding 146 visits to the Palm Beach club, which makes sense in the context of his inability to bill the government when he was staying at the actual White House. The records do not show any spending at Mar-a-Lago until 2018, despite the fact Trump visited that property many times the year before, and those visits are known to have resulted in tens of thousands of dollars of Secret Service spending.
One of the defining features of the Trump presidency was how much time he spent golfing. It’s not just that he spent nearly a quarter of the days of his presidency at a golf course, it’s that he almost exclusively did so at courses that bear his name. Many of Trump’s golf courses follow the naming convention of Trump National Golf Club and then the city they’re nearest. That creates a problem in the records, as most of the expenditures are listed as just Trump National Golf Club without an identifying location (although his Doral course seems to be categorized separately). While we cannot know for sure which courses he was at, the records show the Secret Service spending more than $850,000 at his golf properties, with reported numbers outside of the records obtained by CREW bringing the likely total closer to $1 million. In addition, the Washington Post reported that in some records they analyzed, payments to Mar-a-Lago were sometimes listed as “Trump National Golf Club”–there is a course in nearby Jupiter, FL by that name–meaning that the full extent of the payments to his private club may be obscured.
Likewise, the documents tend to list all of his hotels as just Trump International Hotel, including the recently departed Trump International Hotel in DC, which served as the nexus of his corruption. The documents show more than $400,000 spent at Trump hotels, while previous reporting suggests a total likely much more than that. For example, documents obtained by the Washington Post show that the Secret Service spent nearly $50,000 at Trump’s Washington hotel during 2016. These new documents don’t show any payments to that property until February 2017.
This is not to question the legitimacy of these expenses–of course presidents and their families need to be protected. But Trump is ostensibly a billionaire (although he’s the first president in generations not to release his tax returns, so it’s hard to be sure), and these were not personal residences. Trump was making promotional appearances at businesses he continued to own and profit from. It would be bad enough that he visited his properties nearly 550 times while in office, but it is much worse that he was using the trips to line his pockets with taxpayer money via his Secret Service protection. As Trump is still protected by Secret Service agents, the spending–which began before his oath of office–at his properties continues.
These properties were resorts and hotels, he did not need to charge the Secret Service to stay there. In fact, Eric Trump, who along with his brother Don Jr. was nominally in charge of his businesses at the time, lied that they were only charging the Secret Service the cost of housekeeping. Trump made a choice that he was going to actively grift the Secret Service since it was required to protect him. He appears to have made millions, but the cost to the integrity of the presidency was much higher.