PROTECTING TRUMP’S SONS COST $396,000 ON TRIPS TO 3 COUNTRIES
2017, hoping to piece together the costs. On one of those trips, for example, the president hosted Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, at Mar-a-lago. At the time, a White House official said the president had paid for Abe and his wife’s trip to Florida as a “gift.”
Without the White House’s cooperation, details of Trump’s personal expenditures related to that trip could not be included in the report. “You could assume it’s the total cost of $13.6 million,” Brian Lepore, the GAO’S director of defense capabilities and management, said in an interview of the White House’s lack of response. “Plus something else.”
Lepore emphasized that several agencies, including the Defense Department, the Secret Service and the Coast Guard, were able to furnish details, and that the Defense Department and the Secret Service had agreed to deliver more detailed reports to Congress in the future. In the case of the Defense Department, the report found that there had been no process in place for reporting expenditures.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on why it did not supply information for the report.
Lepore said the Obama White House, which underwent a similar review for trips President Barack Obama took to Chicago and West Palm Beach in 2013, met with GAO officials but ultimately declined to release information. The Clinton White House, which faced a review in 1999, furnished cost information on President Bill Clinton’s international trips to Africa, Chile and China.
“We’d certainly want to know the cost of lodging and meals and incidental expenses” incurred by staff members on trips to Mar-a- Lago, Lepore said.
Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of the ethics watchdog CREW, said that the report raised significant issues, particularly since it found that about $60,000 had been pumped back into Mar-a-lago during that time period.
“When the president travels to visit his properties, he is promoting those businesses, offering them extensive free publicity as well as in some cases providing access and other perks to his paying customers,” Bookbinder said. “Of course when the money is paid directly to a presidential property like Mar-a-lago, those conflict-of-interest concerns intensify.”
The Democratic lawmakers who requested the report also asked officials to examine the costs of protecting two of the president’s sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., on three international trips taken in early 2017. The report found that the young- er Trumps flew by commercial aircraft, and it cost the Secret Service about $396,000, mostly in temporary duty costs, to protect them on trips to Uruguay, the Dominican Republic and the United Arab Emirates.
The Secret Service, which did not respond to a request for comment, is responsible for protecting the president’s adult children unless they decline those protections, as Donald Trump Jr. has done on and off in the past.
The Democrats who requested the report, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Gary Peters of Michigan, and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said they were alarmed by its findings.
“This is part of a troubling pattern of wasteful spending and serious abuse of tax dollars by the administration,” they said in a statement. “We will keep investigating this issue to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used effectively and appropriately.”
President Donald Trump meets his wife, Melania, after arriving in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Donald Trump’s Mar-a-lago estate is a Mediterranean-style mansion with 118 rooms. The club was built by the cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, who sold it to Trump in 1985.