November 27, 2019
President Trump hit an important milestone as he returned to Florida over the Thanksgiving holiday: 100 visits to Mar-a-Lago. In 1,040 days as president, he has prioritized visiting his properties over the course of his presidency, making time for nearly 400 visits to the businesses that he still owns and profits from. Of all of his properties, it appears that Mar-a-Lago is his favorite to funnel untold sums of taxpayer money to, even rebranding Mar-a-Lago the “Winter White House.”
The president has visited Mar-a-Lago nearly 10% of the days he’s been in office, despite the fact that his use of the resort has prompted concerns about national security, profiteering, influence peddling and transparency. Now that Mar-a-Lago is Trump’s official residence, we can only expect more visits to the resort. While every President is entitled to maintain and visit a personal residence, Trump is the first modern president to routinely allow the funneling of federal and foreign government dollars to his pocket in this way. Here’s a look back at the lowlights:
January 2017: After 20 years of lawsuits about aircraft noise over Mar-a-Lago, Trump dropped the litigation when the Federal Aviation Administration limited flights allowed over the property.
February 2017: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago for a weekend. Trump said he would pay for the visit, to avoid violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. North Korea launched a missile during the trip, and Trump and Abe responded from dinner at Mar-a-Lago, raising security concerns about discussing foreign policy in a public dining room in front of customers
February 2017: Mar-a-Lago members appear to have been invited on tours of Air Force One.
April 2017: During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit with Trump in Florida, Trump hosted him for dinner at Mar-a-Lago. White House staffers stayed at Mar-a-Lago, and accumulated a $1,000 bar tab, which the White House paid for.
September 2017: Instead of turning over complete visitor logs for Mar-a-Lago as ordered by a court, the government turned over a list of 22 names from the Japanese Prime Minister’s trip, which was already public, but did not even include New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who was photographed seated at the table with Trump and Abe during the visit. Especially given the access to Trump given to paying visitors of his properties, breaking with precedent by not releasing logs raised serious transparency concerns.
December 2017: After Trump’s sweeping tax cuts were signed into law, he celebrated at Mar-a-Lago and told his friends there “You all just got a lot richer.”
February and March 2018: Trump consulted Mar-a-Lago members on gun control measures following the Parkland shooting, on Amazon and issues with the postal service, and on coverage Jared Kushner’s security clearance downgrade.
April 2018: Trump golfed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump’s Golf Club in Palm Beach, and then in official remarks, promoted Mar-a-Lago as a venue for yet another visit with Abe saying “It’s just a special place. And somehow it makes people feel good, and that’s good for a relationship.”
June 2018: News broke that 16 of Trump’s visits to Mar-a-Lago since his inauguration cost taxpayers nearly $20 million in coast guard protections alone. By April, the local sheriff’s office also already accrued $3.3 million in overtime for protections that were reimbursed by the federal government.
October 2018: Trump nominated Lana Marks, a Mar-a-Lago member, to be Ambassador to South Africa, though her experience as a handbag designer did not make her an obvious choice.
January 2019: The Government Accountability Office released a report found that four of Trump’s early trips to Mar-a-Lago cost American taxpayers even more than previously known, at an average of $3.4 million per trip.
February 2019: During the 35 day federal government shutdown during a fight over funding for a border wall, Trump complained that he missed being at Mar-a-Lago.
April 2019: Mar-a-Lago required that Secret Service defer to Mar-a-Lago staffers and allow in some visitors who are not on a pre-approved list. This issue was exposed when a woman from China entered Mar-a-Lago with four cell phones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive, and a thumb drive reportedly containing computer malware. Her visit to Mar-a-Lago raised serious security and espionage concerns, as well as questions of the records being kept about visitors to the resort.
August 2019: CREW obtained damning records of the influence of Trump’s paying members at Mar-a-Lago over the Department of Veterans Affairs. 300 pages of emails showed the outsized influence of Ike Perlmutter, Marc Sherman and Bruce Moskowitz, and the VA staffers being forced to go to great lengths to accommodate the Mar-a-Lago members, who had no qualifications beyond the club membership to be working with the VA.
November 2019: The Center for Security Policy (which believes that Muslim groups are infiltrating the US government) hosted an event at Mar-a-Lago, signalling that extreme groups have taken the place of mainstream charities hosting events at Mar-a-Lago.
This is far from an exhaustive list of all the conflicts that Trump has accumulated at Mar-a-Lago in his nearly three years as president. Even before Trump was elected, Mar-a-Lago was on its way to becoming a nexus for corruption; former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (who was recently hired as a communications guru for Trump during impeachment) attended a fundraiser in 2016 at the resort for well below market rate. At the time, CREW wrote that this discount may have been a reward for Bondi’s refusal to file charges against Trump University.
As Trump blows past 100 visits to his scandal-plagued resort, it is worth recognizing the milestone. But the overlaps between his business and the government are just as maddening at 100 visits to Mar-a-Lago as they were on the 13th day of his presidency when he made his first visit on the taxpayer dime. Since then, we have only seen the evidence pile up that Mar-a-Lago exhibits the worst of the Trump presidency, from reckless national security risks to profiteering to influence peddling.