Home of the Jim Heath Channel and Fact News

President Trump welcomed the Japanese prime minister at Mar-a-Lago, in front of a towering arrangement of roses. The two could have met in Washington, but Trump said his private club was a more comfortable alternative.

The Washington Post: “It is, indeed, the Southern White House,” Trump said, greeting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the press.

For Trump, there was another, hidden benefit. Money.

At Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s company would get paid to host his summit.

In the next two days, as Trump and Abe talked about trade and North Korea, Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., club billed the U.S. government $13,700 for guest rooms, $16,500 for food and wine and $6,000 for the roses and other floral arrangements.

Trump’s club even charged for the smallest of services. When Trump and Abe met alone, with no food served, the government still got a bill for what they drank.

“Bilateral meeting,” the bill said.

“Water.” $3 each.

Those payments from April 2018, revealed here for the first time, are part of a long-running pattern whose scope has become clear only in recent months.

Since his first month in office, Trump has used his power to direct millions from U.S. taxpayers — and from his political supporters — into his own businesses.

The Washington Post has sought to compile examples of this spending through open records requests and a lawsuit.

In all, he has received at least $8.1 million from these two sources since he took office, those documents and publicly available records show.

Trump brought taxpayer money to his businesses simply by bringing himself.

He’s visited his hotels and clubs more than 280 times now, making them a familiar backdrop for his presidency.

And in doing so, he has turned those properties into magnets for GOP events, including glitzy fundraisers for his own reelection campaign, where big donors go to see and be seen.

Trump says the reason is comfort. “People like my product, what can I tell you, can’t help it,” he told reporters last year.

But documents show that visits by Trump, his family and his supporters have turned the government and the Republican Party into regular customers for the family business.

In the case of the government, Trump’s visits turned it into a captive customer, newly revealed documents show. What the government needed from Trump’s properties, it had to buy from Trump’s company.

So the more he went, the more he got.

Since 2017, Trump’s company has charged taxpayers for hotel rooms, ballrooms, cottages, rental houses, golf carts, votive candles, floating candles, candelabras, furniture moving, resort fees, decorative palm trees, strip steak, chocolate cake, breakfast buffets, $88 bottles of wine and $1,000 worth of liquor for White House aides.

And water.

In addition, Trump’s campaign and fundraising committee paid $5.6 million to his companies since his inauguration in January 2017. Those payments — turning campaign donations into private revenue — continued even this year, as Trump fell behind in polls and his campaign ran short of money.

The combined total of these payments was more than Trump’s hotels in Vancouver and Hawaii brought him during the same period, according to financial disclosures.

The Trump Organization is not prohibited from accepting the payments.

But the payments did break a key promise from 2016: Trump’s pledge that he would “completely isolate” himself from his business once in office, and put his voters’ interests above his own.

“If I win, I may never see my property — I may never see these places again,” Trump said on the campaign trail then. “Because I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf. Believe me.”

Trump still owns his businesses, but says he’s given day-to-day control to his eldest sons.

There is no official total of what Trump’s company has been paid by the government and Trump’s campaign since he took office.

The company and the campaign have both declined to say, and did not respond to questions for this story.

White House spokesman Judd Deere also declined to give a total.

Without an official accounting of these payments, The Post has sought to compile its own.

It relied on public databases of campaign spending, and hundreds of pages of federal spending records — obtained via public-records requests, public-records lawsuits and other means.

The result is a never-before-seen portrait of the presidency as a revenue stream.

While Trump was publicly donating his $400,000 annual presidential salary, he was privately using his power to bring his businesses far more than that.

“Americans elect a president to serve the people, not profit off them. Yet President Trump exploits his office to line his pockets with taxpayer dollars,” said Ryan Shapiro of the group Property of the People, whose lawsuits and public-records requests helped bring some of the earliest details of this spending to light.

Much spending remains hidden, because some federal agencies — including the State Department, and the White House itself — have declined to release records.

“The amounts we’re seeing are just the tip of the iceberg,” Shapiro said.

His visits to his own properties brought another customer: The Secret Service.

When Trump visited Mar-a-Lago for two weeks at Christmas last year, for example, the club charged the Secret Service $32,400 for guest rooms.

In addition, Trump’s adult children have brought their father’s company another $260,000 in taxpayer revenue on their own, records show, by taking solo trips to Trump properties with their own Secret Service agents in tow.

And, in some cases, Trump’s properties even got paid on days when no Trumps were present at all.

In Bedminster, N.J., for instance, Trump’s club has charged the Secret Service $17,000 per month to rent a cottage from May to November — even on days when the family is absent.

That’s an unusually high rate for the area, but a former Trump administration official said they had to pay it — to be ready, if Trump suddenly decided to visit.

Defense Department records recently obtained by The Post show a similar pattern of $17,000 payments to Trump’s club in Bedminster in recent years.

Pentagon officials declined to answer questions about whether they have a cottage there, too.

In the past, the Trump Organization has defended its actions with two arguments.

One is that — even if it wanted to — it couldn’t do all this for free.

“Legally, by law, you have to charge the federal government something, otherwise you get into all sorts of gift laws,” Eric Trump told Fox News in February.

Eric Trump has not specified what laws he is referring to.

Ethics experts said they were baffled by that claim, since the agencies that the Trump Organization is known to have charged the most — the departments of Homeland Security, State and Defense — all have policies allowing them to accept gifts under some circumstances.

“There’s nothing that would prohibit any government employee, including the president, from offering the government something for free” if those circumstances are met, said Don W. Fox, who was acting director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics under President Obama.

The Trump Organization’s second argument has been that — though it must charge the government something — it charges only enough to cover its costs. “

If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free. Meaning, like, cost for housekeeping,” Eric Trump told Yahoo Finance last year. “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 bucks.”

Among the hundreds of transactions reviewed by The Post, there were about two dozen payments that came close to that description: On three occasions when Trump visited his hotel in Las Vegas, for instance, the Defense Department reported paying just $74.51 per night for rooms. The Defense Department declined to comment about those payments.

But, in cases where The Post could determine what room rate was charged, the Trump Organization mostly appeared to charge the maximum allowed under federal spending rules.

Or more.

Trump has donated a mere $8,020 to his 2020 campaign as of Oct. 14, records show.

But his campaign and affiliated fundraising committees paid at least $5.6 million out to his companies.

The two committees spent nearly $1 million from Sept. 1 through Oct. 14, including $97,000 for lodging at Trump hotels and nearly $800,000 for catering and ballroom rentals, records show.

RNC and campaign officials have said Trump has never ordered them to visit his clubs — but it was understood that he is more likely to attend if an event is at one of his properties.

In those two months, Trump held five campaign events at his properties — including two in the same day. On Sept. 25, he held a “Latinos for Trump” event at his Doral resort in the morning and a fundraiser at his D.C. hotel in the evening.

Trump had planned another campaign event at his D.C. hotel, but it was canceled after he tested positive for the coronavirus. His campaign is expected to commemorate election night there next week.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This