President Donald Trump still owns and profits from his real estate businesses — and some of those profits come from U.S. taxpayers, as the federal government he runs spends money at his hotels and golf clubs.
On Thursday, NBC News reported that the Secret Service spent $215,254 at Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C. from September 2016 through February 2018, according to expense documents the outlet received through Freedom of Information Act requests. Additionally, NBC News reported last year that the Defense and Agriculture Departments, the IRS, and the General Services Administration spent almost $56,000 at the hotel.
This means that the federal government spent at least $271,000 at the Trump International Hotel through mid-2018.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill containing a provision that would bar the federal government from doing business with Trump’s properties.
The amendment to a larger appropriations bill was offered by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). It is unlikely that the Senate will pass a conjoining appropriations bill containing a similar provision and less likely that Trump would sign it. But it continues a longstanding record of concern about how much Trump is profiting off the presidency — Democratic lawmakers sponsored bills that went nowhere in the last Congress, and have repeatedly expressed concern about the use of federal taxpayer dollars in ways that benefit Trump.
The documents NBC News revealed on Thursday did not outline many details about the purpose of the Secret Service’s expenditures at Trump’s hotel. Over two days in June 2017, the agency spent $33,638 at the hotel, which coincided with a fundraiser Trump attended there for his re-election campaign. Trump lives five blocks away, and while the Secret Service does have to coordinate the president’s protection even at such close venues, it is notable that his decision to hold the event at his own hotel resulted in such a steep hotel bill.
In August 2017, the Secret Service, which had requested $27.7 million in the FY 2018 budget to secure Trump’s “protective footprint” in New York City including Trump Tower, decided to vacate the lease it had signed with a private owner within Trump Tower for use as a command post. The terms and cost of the lease were the main items of disagreement, and the Secret Service moved to a trailer on the sidewalk, according to The Washington Post. Trump and his family rarely visit Trump Tower since First Lady Melania Trump and the couple’s son Barron moved to the White House in 2017.
The secret service expenditure does not include the incurred taxpayer cost of protecting Trump when he travels to his various properties, often to golf — a pastime for which he frequently berated his predecessor, President Barack Obama, who spent much less time on the links than Trump.
An analysis from HuffPost last month revealed that Trump’s golf outings cost taxpayers over $102 million in associated protection costs — personnel, flights, and also car, golf cart, and hotel rentals.
This also does not include the profits Trump reels in from business executives and industry groups with business before the federal government, many of whom stay at Trump’s hotel in what can easily be demonstrated as a bid for a quid pro quo. More constitutionally problematic for Trump is when foreign governments pay him money by way of his properties. The emoluments clause of the Constitution reads:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
The Trump Organization reported in February that its profits from foreign governments rose 26 percent in 2018. Eric Trump, who helps run the business, announced that he and his brother, Donald Trump Jr., signed a check for $191,538, what they said was the total amount the business had made in profits from foreign governments, and gave it to the U.S. Treasury. That claim has not yet been confirmed.
It’s difficult to know how much of this money makes its way into Trump’s personal accounts. Trump has faced a great deal of criticism for his decision to withhold his federal tax returns from public scrutiny. The only disclosure forms Trump has released as president are the ones the Office of Government Ethics requires of all senior federal employees, and those forms detail how he profited off the presidency even within his first six months in office.
The size of Trump’s personal checking account does not matter as much as it does for most Americans. Trump can draw upon the profits his businesses make any time he wants, without notifying anyone.