The U.S. government is hours away from a shutdown. President Donald Trump’s private resort in Florida, by contrast, is preparing for a celebration.
As of 10 p.m. Thursday night, Trump was scheduled to depart the White House for Mar-a-Lago at 4:30 p.m. Friday. On Friday morning, however, the White House — presumably realizing that a president attending a self-congratulatory gala while as his government floundered was bad optics — announced Trump would leave for Florida on Saturday morning, so that he would be able to sign the stopgap spending bill once it passed the Senate. (A presumptuous assertion, given that the prospect of legislators actually passing anything appears to be grim.)
TRUMP PLANS TO STAY IN DC until Senate passes stopgap spending bill, so he can sign it before leaving for Mar-a-Lago, a White House source tells @margarettalev.
Tentative plan is for Trump to depart TOMORROW MORNING for Florida. (Then he can still make big party Saturday.)
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) January 19, 2018
Whatever the case, Trump is making sure the Mar-a-Lago party remains on his agenda.
Supporters looking for access to the president on Saturday evening will have to pay a hefty price: Tickets to the event start at $100,000 per couple and include dinner and a photograph with Trump. An upgraded $250,000 ticket includes both of those things, plus a round-table discussion with the president.
Bloomberg reported this week that Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel and billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn are footing the bill for the event. The proceeds will go back to the RNC and Trump’s reelection campaign fund.
When Trump took office in January 2017, he handed daily operations of his business empire over to his sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric, placing his assets into a trust. However, as ProPublica reported in April, Trump is able to pull money from that trust whenever he wants and isn’t required to publicly disclose when he does. The line between the Trump organization’s business ventures and the White House is often blurred as well.
Since then, Mar-a-Lago, which Trump has dubbed the “Winter White House,” has seen visits from ceremonial heads of state and high-profile individuals seeking to curry favor with the president. On one occasion in February last year, during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit, the resort was used as what the Washington Post dubbed an “open-air situation room,” where high-level government officials, mingling with club members, sought to formulate a response to a missile fired over Japan by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s regime.
Mar-a-Lago itself has taken benefited from Trump’s presidency, using his high-profile status to justify raising its private membership fees to $200,000 in 2017 — nearly double what it was a year earlier.
It isn’t just wealthy private citizens who are lining the president’s pockets by shelling out for access to exclusive parties — it’s American taxpayers too. According to documents obtained by CNN, the Secret Service paid Mar-a-Lago tens of thousands of dollars in the span of a few months last year to cover rooms rented to agents, as well space leased for communications equipment or other purposes.
Trump’s financial disclosure forms for 2016-2017 show Mar-a-Lago made $37 million in revenue in the first four months of his presidency.
Saturday’s Mar-a-Lago event comes in the wake of an announcement by the Trump Organization that owners of units housed at the company’s new condominium development in India will gain precious access to the first family. According to The New York Times, Indian developers have promised to fly the first 100 property buyers to New York for a sit-down dinner with Donald Trump Jr. The president’s critics have already panned the move as yet another scheme to use Trump’s fame to pad his company’s pockets.