President Trump has obliterated his campaign promise to “rarely leave the White House.” He’s spent three consecutive weekends at his private Mar-a-Lago club, at a cost to taxpayers of about $10 million — or slightly less than what President Obama spent on travel for an entire year.
But his team is spinning the trips to his private club as simply an opportunity for Trump to spend time with everyday folks.
Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told CNN that Trump’s visits to his Palm Beach club make him accessible to “regular Americans.”
Memberships to Mar-a-Lago cost $200,000, a fee that doubled shortly after Trump’s inauguration. And that figure doesn’t include taxes or the $14,000 in annual dues that each member also pays to maintain membership.
Of course, dropping $200,000 for membership at a private club would be impossible for most Trump supporters. That’s nearly four times the median household income in the country.
The idea that it’s important for Trump to make himself accessible to wealthy club members is a perspective that some Mar-a-Lago members share.
After watching Trump deal with an international crisis in front of diners and wait staff while his aides illuminated documents with their cell phones in a dimly-lit dining area, one member — Richard DeAgazio— applauded Trump for choosing “to be out on the terrace, with the members.”
Mar-a-Lago members might even be able to give Trump policy input. A New York Times report details how Trump “startled” a member by asking him for advice about how to bring costs down for his border wall.
Bernd Lembcke, Mar-a-Lago’s managing director, admits that Trump is profiting from the prestige provided by his repeated visits to the club as president. “It enhances it — his presidency does,” Lembcke told the Times, referring to Mar-a-Lago membership. “People are now even more interested in becoming members.”
The president — whose first budget proposal would eliminate a program that helps provide poor Americans with lawyers, among other cuts — doesn’t seem worried about the burden his unnecessary trips to Mar-a-Lago may place on taxpayers. CNN reports that, with the exception of next weekend, businesses in the Palm Beach area “say they have been told to expect the President every weekend until May.”