Trump be­gins 17-day ‘work­ing va­ca­tion’ at N.J. golf club

The sum­mer trip is at­trib­uted to White House ren­o­va­tions

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY JOHN WAG­NER AND ELISE VIEBECK john.wag­ner@wash­post.com elise.viebeck@wash­post.com Viebeck re­ported from Wash­ing­ton. David A. Fahren­thold con­trib­uted to this re­port.

bedminster, n.j. — Pres­i­dent Trump, who knocked his pre­de­ces­sor’s work ethic and said he prob­a­bly wouldn’t take va­ca­tions as pres­i­dent, has set­tled in for 17 days here at his se­cluded golf club in New Jersey’s fox­hunt and horse coun­try.

Aides are billing Trump’s time at one of his fa­vorite prop­er­ties as a “work­ing va­ca­tion,” a no­tion bol­stered by his ar­rival on Air Force One on Fri­day with a ret­inue of aides, in­clud­ing his newly minted chief of staff, John F. Kelly.

With the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion gain­ing steam and loom­ing crises in North Korea and other hot spots, no one ex­pects a truly quiet cou­ple of weeks.

In fact, within hours of ar­riv­ing, Trump felt com­pelled to is­sue a state­ment de­fend­ing his national se­cu­rity ad­viser, H.R. McMaster, who has been un­der fire from con­ser­va­tive groups for push­ing out sev­eral hard-lin­ers on the national se­cu­rity staff and re­new­ing the se­cu­rity clear­ance of for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s last national se­cu­rity ad­viser, among other things. Trump was briefed on Satur­day morn­ing by Kelly on a Ma­rine Corps he­li­copter crash off the coast of Aus­tralia.

Still, even some close to Trump hope that his time in this 8,200per­son town­ship about 45 miles west of New York City will pro­vide as much of an August respite as pos­si­ble from his first six months in the White House.

“It’s good for every­one,” Barry Ben­nett, a Trump ad­viser dur­ing the cam­paign, said of the break. “It’s good for the pres­i­dent, and it’s good for Wash­ing­ton. I hope it’s a few hard days of noth­ing­ness.”

Trump has no public events sched­uled over the week­end and plans to re­main on his 535-acre prop­erty, where he has al­ready spent four week­ends since ar­riv­ing in of­fice and which some lo­cals have taken to call­ing “Camp David North.”

Aides said over the com­ing days, staffers are ex­pected to cy­cle in and out of town and that the pres­i­dent will be kept fully up to speed on de­vel­op­ments at home and abroad.

Meet­ings and phone calls are ex­pected with sev­eral law­mak­ers, who face a weighty agenda next month, in­clud­ing a re­quest from the ad­min­is­tra­tion to in­crease the na­tion’s debt ceil­ing, as well as promised ac­tion on tax re­form. And it’s pos­si­ble Trump’s time away could in­clude a cou­ple of day trips else­where to high­light ini­tia­tives or rally sup­port­ers.

“The pres­i­dent will con­tinue to work over the next two weeks,” said deputy press sec­re­tary Lind­say Wal­ters, who is among the White House staffers on site this week­end.

She at­trib­uted Trump’s re­lo­ca­tion in part to long-planned ren­o­va­tions tak­ing place in the West Wing, in­clud­ing an over­haul of the 27-year-old heat­ing and air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tem, forc­ing staff to tem­po­rar­ily move to another build­ing.

Trump echoed that sen­ti­ment on Twit­ter on Satur­day night. “This is a not a va­ca­tion — meet­ings and calls!” he wrote, as part of a string of tweets on var­ied top­ics, in­clud­ing a U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil vote ear­lier in the day.

Trump’s trip, nev­er­the­less, is very much in keep­ing with a tra­di­tion of pres­i­dents es­cap­ing Wash­ing­ton dur­ing the late sum­mer.

Martha’s Vine­yard, known for its af­flu­ence, be­came the choice sum­mer va­ca­tion spot for Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and Obama. Clin­ton was also known to make sum­mer trips to Jack­son Hole, Wyo., and the Oba­mas vis­ited sev­eral national parks.

Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush spent his va­ca­tion time at the fam­ily com­pound in Ken­neb­unkport, Maine. Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush would usu­ally take breaks on his ranch in Craw­ford, Tex., fa­mously clear­ing brush and some­times draw­ing crit­i­cism for the length of his get­aways.

Both as a pri­vate cit­i­zen and can­di­date, Trump was mer­ci­less in his cri­tique of Obama’s time away.

“@Barack­Obama played golf yes­ter­day. Now he heads to a 10 day va­ca­tion in Martha’s Vine­yard. Nice work ethic,” Trump said in one 2011 tweet.

There was a time when pres­i­dents could truly get away, pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian Robert Dallek said, not­ing that Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt would go on sea voy­ages “be­cause he was so stressed and bur­dened by all the de­mands on him.”

But for pres­i­dents these days, August get­aways are “never as re­lax­ing as they hope it will be,” pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian Dou­glas Brink­ley said. “You may get a few ex­tra rounds of golf in, but there’s no es­cap­ing the public eye.”

Still, there’s an up­side for Trump in get­ting out of town, Brink­ley said. “Be­ing at his prop­er­ties is re­ally good for his psy­che. It re­minds him of a pre­vi­ous life of suc­cess.”

Trump de­camped to Mar-a-Lago, his pri­vate club in Palm Beach, Fla., on seven oc­ca­sions in the early months of his pres­i­dency be­fore shift­ing his week­end trav­els to New Jersey.

The pres­i­dent has a spe­cial fond­ness for Bedminster, where his daugh­ter Ivanka and son-in­law Jared Kush­ner — now both se­nior White House aides — were mar­ried in 2009. Sev­eral fam­ily mem­bers have homes on the prop­erty, and at one point, Trump planned to erect a mau­soleum for him­self over­look­ing the golf course.

Bedminster Mayor Steven E. Parker said Trump’s pres­i­den­tial vis­its have started to be­come rou­tine for the town­ship, which is now get­ting re­im­bursed by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for the costs of po­lice over­time and other se­cu­rity-re­lated costs.

For a po­lar­iz­ing pres­i­dent, there have been rel­a­tively few and mostly po­lite protests. An anony­mous New Jersey artist carved the word “re­sist” in a nearby corn­field last month. There have been car­a­vans of de­trac­tors who pe­ri­od­i­cally drive by Trump National Golf Club, which sits off a two-lane road with­out a shoul­der and, like many of the town­ship’s sprawl­ing farms and es­tates, can’t be seen by mo­torists.

“Other than honk­ing horns and maybe dis­turb­ing some farm an­i­mals, I haven’t heard many com­plaints,” said Parker, a Repub­li­can.

Most town­ship res­i­dents haven’t seen Trump in per­son since he be­came pres­i­dent.

“He’s got ev­ery­thing he needs on the premises, and then some,” Parker said. “I haven’t heard about him head­ing out for a pizza or any­thing like that.”

Trump does con­tinue to in­ter­act with mem­bers of his golf club.

Dur­ing the tran­si­tion, Trump held in­ter­views here for sev­eral po­si­tions in his ad­min­is­tra­tion. On an au­dio­tape of Trump in­ter­act­ing with mem­bers ob­tained by The Wash­ing­ton Post, he can be heard so­lic­it­ing their opin­ions for some po­si­tions.

Ear­lier this year, The Post spoke to peo­ple who had in­quired about mem­ber­ship in the club. They were quoted ini­ti­a­tion fees be­tween $75,000 and $100,000, in ad­di­tion to $22,100 in an­nual dues, ac­cord­ing to writ­ten cor­re­spon­dence.

Pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als for the club tout its “mag­nif­i­cent” 25me­ter pool, its “five lux­ury multi-bed­room cot­tages,” its 36hole golf course and its pri­vate he­li­pad.

The roughly 425 mem­bers of the Bedminster club seem to be largely from the New Jersey sub­urbs of New York City.

Wil­liam Pig­ott, an in­vest­ment man­ager and res­i­dent of nearby Far Hills, N.J., said Trump has al­ways in­ter­acted with club mem­bers.

“He loves to say ‘hi’ to peo­ple,” Pig­ott said. “Be­fore all this hap­pened, you’d just see him play golf. You’d see him by the pool, get­ting ice cream. He likes ice cream, from what I can tell.”

The golf club is the sec­ond­largest tax­payer in the town­ship, and lo­cal busi­nesses have re­ported an in­crease in pa­trons dur­ing Trump’s stays. The town­ship is part of Som­er­set County, reg­u­larly ranked among the 10 wealth­i­est Amer­i­can coun­ties.

House­holds had a me­dian in­come of $96,644 in 2015, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral records, or more than $40,000 above the national av­er­age.

Its af­flu­ence is in part thanks to the biotech­nol­ogy and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies that are lo­cated in and around the town. Two phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firms — U.K.-based Mallinck­rodt and Ja­pan’s Dai­ichi Sankyo — launched ma­jor op­er­a­tions in the area just this sum­mer.

Lo­cal busi­nesses tend to serve the area’s high-in­come earn­ers.

The oth­er­wise sleepy Bedminster has three limou­sine com­pa­nies, a bou­tique bank and wealth man­age­ment firm, and roughly as many cater­ers as restau­rants, ac­cord­ing to a lo­cal busi­ness di­rec­tory.

Nearby, eques­trian fa­cil­i­ties and mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar homes lie be­tween the un­paved coun­try lanes and Revo­lu­tion­ary War sites. One house bor­der­ing Trump’s club is cur­rently on the mar­ket for $2.49 mil­lion, of­fer­ing five bed­rooms, an el­e­va­tor, a pool and mar­ble floors.

Bedminster’s pol­i­tics are friendly to the GOP, if not al­ways to Trump. The town hand­ily went for Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees Mitt Rom­ney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008, but Trump won it by just eight votes in Novem­ber over Hil­lary Clin­ton.

The town, which is 86 per­cent white, is rep­re­sented in the House by Rep. Leonard Lance (N.J.), a mod­er­ate Repub­li­can. He re­cently earned at­ten­tion by vot­ing against the GOP health-care plan cham­pi­oned by Trump.

“It’s good for every­one . ... I hope it’s a few hard days of noth­ing­ness.” Trump cam­paign ad­viser Barry Ben­nett on the pres­i­dent’s break

JABIN BOTSFORD/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster Town­ship, N.J., sits off a two-lane road with no shoul­der and can’t be seen by mo­torists. Most town­ship res­i­dents haven’t seen the pres­i­dent since he was sworn in, but golf club pa­trons have in­ter­acted with him.

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