PRO­TECT­ING TRUMP’S SONS COST $396,000 ON TRIPS TO 3 COUN­TRIES

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - | NEWS -

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.”

STEPHEN CROW­LEY / NEW YORK TIMES FILE (2017)

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump meets his wife, Me­la­nia, af­ter ar­riv­ing in West Palm Beach, Fla.

ERIC THAYER / NEW YORK TIMES FILE (2016)

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.

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