Trump still charging taxpayers for Secret Service room at Mar-a-Lago: report

Melania Trump, the Trump kids and former aides like Stephen Miller have all racked up taxpayer charges too

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published May 21, 2021 6:16PM (EDT)

A Secret Service agent stands guard as Marine One with US President Donald Trump on board, lands at the White House on July 21, 2019, in Washington, DC. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
A Secret Service agent stands guard as Marine One with US President Donald Trump on board, lands at the White House on July 21, 2019, in Washington, DC. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump has charged the Secret Service more than $40,000 for his own protective detail to rent a single room at his Mar-a-Lago resort, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Federal spending records released by the Secret Service show that Mar-a-Lago has billed taxpayers $396.15 per night every day since Trump left office through at least April 30, totaling at least $40,011.15. The rate is nearly twice as high as the $205 federal daily lodging spending limit for most government employees, though the Secret Service is allowed to spend more if their protective mission requires it. The charges covered the cost of a single room that Trump's protective detail uses as a workspace, a source told the outlet. Most Secret Service agents on Trump's detail typically stay elsewhere, according to the report.

Trump moved to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House and has since relocated to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, for the summer. It's unclear whether he has continued to charge for rooms but his properties billed taxpayers for more than $2.5 million for Secret Service agents and other government officials and staff while he was in office. During Trump's presidency, the Bedminster club charged Secret Service $567 per night to rent a four-room cottage on the property.

While former presidents are entitled to Secret Service protection for life, historians "could not find another example of a president charging the Secret Service rent on this scale," according to the Post. Some historians told the outlet they were "surprised" Trump was still charging taxpayers for his own Secret Service agents' stays, since he also gets a paid staff and receives a substantial pension.

Though Trump donated his presidential salary to charity, he has been collecting his federal pension since leaving office, according to Insider. The General Services Administration told the outlet that Trump has received $65,600 in pension funds as of May 14. He is entitled to collect $219,000 per year, though the pension is optional.

Trump is also entitled to a paid post-presidential transition staff, which has allowed many of his former White House aides to continue to collect a taxpayer-funded salary. Insider reported that Trump adviser Stephen Miller, the architect of some of Trump's most divisive policies, is one of 17 aides on the staff, which will receive about $1.3 million in compensation until the transition period ends in July. Ten of the aides are employed at Mar-a-Lago while another seven are based in Arlington, Virginia.

Miller is earning an annualized salary of $160,000, according to GSA documents obtained by the outlet. Dan Scavino, the former White House deputy chief of staff largely responsible for Trump's social media feeds, is the highest-paid aide with an annualized salary of $172,500.

After the transition period ends, Trump will still be entitled to continue receiving $150,000 for staff compensation for an additional 30 months, after which the taxpayer-funded staff compensation drops to $96,000 per year, according to CNN.

Former first lady Melania Trump has also continued to use taxpayer funds to employ a "handful of staffers," according to CNN. Former adviser Marcia Kelly is earning an annual salary of $150,000 while her former chief of staff Hayley D'Antuono is earning an annualized salary of $160,000. "It was not immediately clear if the Trumps themselves are also supplementing their staff members' salaries with private funds, which they are permitted to do," the outlet reported.

Trump's children have also continued to rack up big travel bills after Trump extended their Secret Service protection through July before leaving office, costing taxpayers more than $140,000 just in the first 30 days after he left office, according to the report. That sum includes more than $50,000 in transportation, including for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner's vacation to Salt Lake City, and $88,678 for hotel bills for their Secret Service protection.

"The general feeling is there probably won't be a lot of sadness when the six months is up," a source told CNN of the general sentiment of Trump's children's Secret Service detail.

The hefty payments for staff and travel raised questions about why Trump is charging taxpayers for his own Secret Service protection. The self-professed billionaire this week touted a $1.2 billion refinancing of a San Francisco office building in which his company holds a 30% share. Forbes also estimates that Trump is a billionaire, though his estimated net worth has plummeted from $3.5 billion to $2.4 billion since he took office in 2017. Trump has falling out of Forbes' list of the top 1,000 richest billionaires, and now sits at No. 1,299.

"It's tacky," Jeffrey A. Engel, the director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, told the Washington Post of the Mar-a-Lago bills. "Just because you can make a buck doesn't mean you should make a buck. And especially when you have a situation where you're an ex-president. You're not going to starve."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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