On Tuesday afternoon, President Trump used a photo op with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to promote his private Mar-a-Lago club.
Shortly after Abe arrived in Florida for his second visit to the property, Trump told reporters that “many of the world’s great leaders request to come to Mar-a-Lago and Palm Beach. They like it. I like it. We’re comfortable.”
Trump, who broke precedent by refusing to divest from his business interests when he assumed office, still profits from Mar-a-Lago. Since he was inaugurated, initiation fees have doubled to $200,000, and the Trump Organization has cranked up prices for entry to events.
Mar-a-Lago membership comes with perks that go beyond access to the president. For instance, during Abe’s first visit to the club in February of last year, he and Trump responded to a crisis created by North Korea testing an intermediate-range ballistic missile in full view of diners and and waiters, with sensitive documents illuminated by cell phone lights. Members were later able to describe the scene “in detail” to reporters.
After singing his club’s praises on Tuesday, Trump went on to offer reporters an inaccurate history of the property, saying it was “originally built as the southern White House. It was called the ‘southern White House.'”
“It was given to the United States, and then Jimmy Carter decided it was too expensive for the United States, so they fortunately for me gave it back and I bought it,” Trump continued. “But we are — who would have thought, it was a circuitous route, but now it is indeed the southern White House. And again many, many people want to be here, many of the leaders want to be here — they request specifically.”
But Mar-a-Lago was not built as the “southern White House.” In fact, it was constructed from 1924 to 1927 by cereal-company heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. Upon her death in 1973, she donated the property to the National Park Service. It subsequently fell into disrepair and was purchased by Trump in 1985.
After promoting Mar-a-Lago, Trump took credit for the winter Olympics that took place in South Korea earlier this year — “without us and without me in particular, I guess, you would have to say, that they wouldn’t be discussing anything including the Olympics, which would have been a failure” — and then claimed he had given his “blessing” for leaders of North and South Korea to discuss the formal end of the Korean War.
“They do have my blessing to discuss the end to the war,” Trump said.
Presidents have traditionally used the government-owned Camp David property in Maryland to host foreign heads of state.