During his news conference on Friday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to argue that President Trump couldn’t possibly have worked harder in his unsuccessful effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Spicer also said Trump planned to spend a “working weekend” in Washington, D.C.
But on Saturday, Trump headed to a golf course for the 12th time during the nine weeks he’s been president. And by visiting the Trump National Golf Club in suburban Virginia, Trump — who repeatedly ripped President Obama for his much less-frequent golf outings and promised he “would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done” during the campaign — has now visited a Trump-branded property for eight straight weekends. That covers all but the very first weekend of his presidency.
White House pool reporter Adrian Carrasquillo reports that it’s unclear what Trump is doing at his golf course.
My latest pool report:
– No clue what Trump has done for last three hours despite multiple requests.
– Picking up tips at tennis palace. pic.twitter.com/nWbCOUw184
— Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo) March 25, 2017
Carrasquillo reports that Trump staffers said the president was there for meetings. But Trump has previously misled the press about what he’s up to at his golf courses.
Trump said he was going to golf club for meetings and phone calls.
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) March 18, 2017
Trump’s latest trip to one of his properties comes a day after Forbes broke news that Eric Trump plans to give his father quarterly updates about how Trump’s sprawling business empire is doing financially. Trump has refused to divest from his business, putting him in a unique position to profit off the presidency.
“Yeah, on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it,” Eric Trump said, in reference to what he’ll brief his father on. “My father and I are very close… I talk to him a lot. We’re pretty inseparable.”
Those statements contradicted what Eric Trump told the Forbes reporter less than two minutes earlier.
“There is kind of a clear separation of church and state that we maintain, and I am deadly serious about that exercise,” he said. “I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That’s kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it’s something that we honor.”
In January, Trump discussed his plan to hand over day-to-day management of the Trump Organization to his sons while retaining ownership of the company.
“My two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company,” Trump said at a press conference in New York. “They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They’re not going to discuss it with me.”
But Eric’s comments about the quarterly briefings he plans to give his father aren’t consistent with the plan Trump outlined.
Jed Shugerman, a professor at Fordham University Law School who is working on legal strategies to hold Trump accountable for violating the Constitution by profiting off his office, told ThinkProgress that “it is shocking that Trump would take on the office of the presidency without just doing what every other official in a remotely similar position has done in the past.”
With regard to Trump’s conflicts of interest, Shugerman said that “every ethics lawyer knows how easy it would be to fix this problem.”
“Put assets in to a blind trust, divest, or hand over the business to another set of people who are not conflicted, and then you can have some other entity control Trump Tower during the presidency and he can always buy it back,” he continued. “Given that he ran for the presidency and has the privilege of being president, it was foreseeable from the very beginning that these conflicts would happen. If you want to be the president, there are costs to being president.”
While Trump isn’t heading to his private club in Florida this weekend — he’s already been there four times since the inauguration — his wife Melania did make an appearance.
“Melania Trump made a cameo appearance Friday night as the Palm Beach County Republican Party held its annual Lincoln Day fundraising dinner at Mar-a-Lago,” the Palm Beach Post reports, adding that she “appeared for a few minutes at a pre-dinner VIP reception.”
It’s unclear who paid for Melania’s travel, but the Washington Post estimated that Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago cost taxpayers over $3 million a pop.
The Palm Beach Post adds that the Palm Beach County GOP paid around $150,000 to rent Trump’s ballroom. Memberships at Mar-a-Lago doubled in price to $200,000 shortly after the inauguration (taxes and $14,000 annual dues not included). For that price you get access to the president — perhaps even while he’s trying to deal with an international crisis in a dining area.
Meanwhile, the head of Trump’s hotel-management company recently announced plans for “an ambitious expansion across the U.S.” that would triple the number of Trump-branded hotels in the country.
UPDATE: Trump staffers said Trump was at the Trump National for meetings, but photos posted on Instagram show the president traveling around the course in golf cleats.
just saw this on IG: pic.twitter.com/96kIwnAFHS
— Alex Marshall (@a_r_marshall) March 25, 2017
Upon Trump’s return to the White House, the press pool again asked aides if the president played golf.
“They told us all they know, that he had meetings,” a White House staffer replied.
UPDATE II: For dinner, Trump visited his second Trump-branded property of the day — the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.
From the White House press pool: “Motorcade arrived at the Trump international hotel at 9:06 pm where the president is going to have dinner. It is unclear who he will dine with.”
A person who was at the hotel tweeted out photos and videos indicating that Trump was there with his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Chants of "USA! USA!" as President Trump left. Several people who shouted, "Keep up the great work!" pic.twitter.com/fxpu0NZfkp
— Noah Weiland (@noahweiland) March 26, 2017
The Associated Press published a photo of Trump’s motorcade outside his hotel.
UPDATE III (3/26): Trump is back at the Trump National Golf Club on Sunday morning. It’s the third time he’s visited a Trump-branded property this weekend.
Trump arrives for Day 2 at Trump National Golf Course in Virginia, even though it's an overcast 48 degrees, unlike yesterday's 73 and sunny. pic.twitter.com/bjSFwalILt
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) March 26, 2017
The press pool reported that they didn’t know where Trump was headed when he left the White House.
“On a cloudy, chilly Sunday morning, motorcade departed WH at 10:27 a.m.,” the pool report said. “Destination embargoed until we arrive.”
A separate pool report acknowledged that reporters again have no idea what Trump is up to.
“After uneventful ride, motorcade arrived at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, VA, at 11:04 a.m.,” the pool report said. “Pool is holding at the indoor tennis center, and has asked press staff what POTUS has on his sked today — golf? meetings? who’s with him? Will advise on any answers.”
Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg confirmed that Trump did in fact play golf on Saturday — a full 18 holes.
Trump golfed 18 holes yesterday on the "championship" course here with the club pro and a club member, fellow members tell me today. pic.twitter.com/pnyOYajRAj
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) March 26, 2017
White House officials say Trump didn’t golf Sunday. The press pool reports that aides said Trump was headed back to the White House less than an hour after arriving at his golf club. Officials told reporters Trump participated in three meetings while there.
As was the case on Saturday, it appears someone who was at the club at the same time as Trump on Sunday was able to snap a photograph of him.
And here are some more photos of Trump watching golf at his club.