Donald Trump; Mar-A-Lago (Getty/Gary Gershoff/Shutterstock)

Taxpayers have paid nearly $1 million to Trump properties for more than 1,600 hotel rooms: report

The new spending data only scratches the surface as the Trump administration continues to conceal full accounting



Igor Derysh
May 15, 2020 4:45PM (UTC)

Taxpayers have paid at least $970,000 to President Donald Trump's properties for more than 1,600 hotel room rentals since he took office, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

The Post's David Fahrenthold and Joshua Partlow have continued to track government spending at Trump's properties, a tall task since the administration has gone to great lengths to "hide the details from the public" and even redact rates from Secret Service documents over an alleged need to protect "techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations." 

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After tallying more than $600,000 in government payments to Trump's company in March, the reporters have since obtained federal records showing an additional $340,000 payments related to trips by Trump, his family and top administration officials. Though there are no records which show taxpayers cover the cost of the rooms for Trump and his family, the government has been billed for aides and Secret Service agents who accompany the president on his travels.

The Post analysis found that taxpayers have now paid for 950 nightly room rentals at Trump's golf club in Bedminster, N.J., as well as 530 nightly rentals at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla.

"Why are US taxpayers paying Donald Trump's company?" Keith Boykin, a former White House aide to President Bill Clinton who now works as a CNN commentator, asked on Twitter. "This reeks of corruption."

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The Trump Organization, which is still owned by the president but managed by his two eldest sons, has pushed back on criticism, falsely claiming that the government spends next to "nothing" to book stays at the president's clubs.

"If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free," Eric Trump, the company's executive vice president, said last year. "So everywhere that he goes, if he stays at one of his places, the government actually spends — meaning, it saves a fortune. Because if they were to go to a hotel across the street, they'd be charging them $500 a night, whereas, you know, we charge them, like, $50."

But the analysis in The Post did not find any rates even close to $50. Among the 1,600 room rentals, the lowest rate the outlet found was $141 per night to rent one room in a four-room cottage at the Bedminster club. The highest rate was $650 per night at Mar-a-Lago.

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Asked by The Post to provide a single example of the company charging the government as low as $50, the Trump Organization did not respond. In fact, the Trump Organization has frequently set rates at just below the maximum limit allowed for government employees under federal rules.

The total spending at Trump's properties is unclear, because the Trump Organization and the Trump administration have refused to turn over that information. The Post has compiled its own tally based on hundreds of pages from public records requests. The new spending was discovered in records from the Pentagon, State Department and Secret Service across only the last two years.

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"It's not just that there's a huge amount of money being spent: we have no idea how much the actual figure is," Jordan Libowitz of the government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told the outlet. "We don't know what's happening . . . only that the taxpayers are footing the bill for it."

The Post report noted that former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, charged Secret Service agents rent to stay at a cottage near his Delaware home, the only recent president or vice president to do so. But records, which were made public at the time, showed that the rent totaled about $171,000 over six years. The Trump Organization eclipsed that figure after Trump was in office for less than two months.

Since Trump is both the hotel owner and the top official in the federal government, "this is the perfect transaction" for someone who wanted to exploit it, Don Fox, the former acting chief of the Office of Government Ethics, told The Post. "You get to not only set the price: You get to ensure that the buyer pays that price — no matter what it is."

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Since Trump bucked precedent and kept control of his company, the unprecedented situation has led to accusations of "corruption." Trump's ownership of the hotels has also resulted in a spate of lawsuits accusing Trump of violating the emoluments clauses of the Constitution, which prohibit the president from accepting gifts or payments from foreign officials and domestic government entities.

A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected Trump's attempt to block one of the lawsuits from moving forward. The president's legal team vowed to fight the ruling in the Supreme Court.

"On the day a federal appellate court allowed a lawsuit to continue against Trump's using his office to make money, we learn about more taxpayer cash Trump has been pocketing through Mar-a-Lago and his cheesy hotels," Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., tweeted.

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Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Email: iderysh@salon.com Twitter: @IgorDerysh

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Corruption Donald Trump Eric Trump Mar-a-lago Politics Republicans Trump Organization

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