President Trump visited a Trump-branded property for the eighth consecutive weekend last weekend, but he didn’t make it down to Mar-a-Lago. During Wednesday’s White House news conference, FOX 5 DC’s Ronica Cleary asked Press Secretary Sean Spicer if the president’s decision not to travel to his private club in Florida was “in any way in response to some of the pushback he’s received about the cost associated with those trips.”
When the cost of Air Force One, Coast Guard expenses, security staffing, and other expenditures are factored in, each Trump trip to Mar-a-Lago costs the federal government about $3.3 million, according to a Washington Post analysis. And that doesn’t account for the money local West Balm Beach and Palm Beach County taxpayers are forced to dole out for law enforcement overtime costs. It also doesn’t factor in revenue local businesses lose because of the disruption caused by Trump’s travels.
On Tuesday, Joint Economic Committee Democrats released an analysis finding that “taxpayer money spent on Donald Trump’s vacations since January 2017 could have paid for child care for 2,338 kids in Mississippi (with the lowest child-care costs) or 521 kids in the District of Columbia (with the highest child-care costs). Instead of paying for President Trump’s vacations, taxpayers could have sent 3,140 students to college in Wyoming (with the lowest in-state tuition) or 815 students to college in New Hampshire (with the highest in-state tuition) this year.”
Those numbers are conservative, as they only include Trump’s first three trips as president to Mar-a-Lago and not his most recent one during the first weekend in March.
But Spicer said Trump isn’t worried about it.
“The president wanted to be here last weekend, he wants to be here this weekend, he’ll be here, and then I’ll have updates on where he’ll be going going forward,” Spicer said.
When Cleary tried to follow up by asking if Trump is “concerned about pushback,” Spicer quickly dismissed the question, saying, “No, he feels great.”
Spicer might not be concerned about the president’s needless and expensive Florida getaways, but the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is. On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the GAO will review “whether Secret Service agents subject Mar-a-Lago guests to any security screening, and evaluate the expenses incurred by government employees who travel with Trump to Mar-a-Lago, according to a letter” the agency sent lawmakers.
Security concerns surrounding Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips were heightened after he and Japanese Prime Minister Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dealt with a North Korea missile crisis in full view of diners at the resort last month, with sensitive documents illuminated by aides’ cell phones.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the congresswoman whose district includes Mar-a-Lago wrote a letter to Trump asking him to do something to relieve the nearly $2 million burden his four visits have already placed on local taxpayers.
“While we want the fullest protection for your visits, we hope you would be responsive to the losses of small businesses and residents of Palm Beach County,” Rep. Lois Frankel (D) wrote. “If compensation is not assured of being forthcoming, we respectfully ask that you curtail your visits until such time as that matter is resolved favorably to our area.”