Department of Defense (DOD) staffers spent more than $138,000 on government-issued Visa cards at Trump-branded properties during the first eight months of Donald Trump's presidency, according to CNN.
The payments are the latest indication that taxpayer money flows into the president's company, reigniting concerns of potential conflicts of interests or breached constitutional and ethical protocols.
CNN revealed that military personnel spent more than one-third of the money — or $58,875.69 on lodging and food at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida — and that the expenses mostly lined up with the 25 days Trump spent at the club between February and April. (Like other modern U.S. presidents, Trump travels with military personnel.)
DOD transactions also surfaced for other Trump-owned properties, including roughly $9,600 at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club around the time of the his trip there in May.
CNN reviewed Defense Department travel records obtained by Property of the People, a nonprofit group that advocates for improved government transparency, who sued the Pentagon for the documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
"With the DOD's . . . spending at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties and Trump's refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, once again we find the president's hand deep in the taxpayer's pocket," Ryan Shapiro, co-founder of Property of the People, told CNN.
Not all spending coincided with the president's travels.
CNN found that 113 transactions were made at the Trump International Las Vegas Hotel, which Trump owns, for a total of $35,652.44. That is in addition to the $17,000 that was charged at a then-Trump branded property in Panama City, Panama. (The owners have since removed the president's name from the hotel.)
Thomas Crosson, a DOD spokesperson, told CNN that records reviewed by the network represent all of the department's payments at Trump properties during that time period. He also said that government spending limits at hotels can be waived if personnel need to stay there in order to support the president.
The charges raise questions about whether the Trump business is profiting off of 45's presidency. Although it is currently being managed by his two eldest sons while he is in office, Trump has maintained ownership of the company that bears his name. But there is little transparency, as the Trump Organization is privately held. And Trump, in a break from tradition from all U.S. presidents since 1968, has continued to refuse to release his tax returns.