By Alan Zibel
Traveling like a Trump sure is expensive.
Even as President Trump has complained about the cost of rebuilding hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, his administration has been anything but thrifty, displaying a penchant for chartered flights and expensive trips including Vice President Mike Pence’s brief and expensive stop at an Indianapolis Colts game over the weekend.
The Trump administration’s indifference to the costs of presidential travel is evident in hundreds of documents released by the Secret Service in response to public records requests filed by Public Citizen and other organizations.
These heavily redacted documents list expenses from last spring, shedding light on the extraordinary costs of protecting Trump and his family in their frequent travels. The Trump family’s travel costs have put severe strains on the Secret Service budget: According to NBC News, Trump has visited one of his golf or hotel properties on roughly a third of the days he has been in office.
The Secret Service estimates that roughly 1,100 employees will work overtime hours in excess of federal pay caps during calendar year 2017. Under Trump, the Secret Service protects 42 people, up from 31 in the Obama administration. “The president has a large family, and our responsibility is required in law,” Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles told told USA Today in August, adding that, “I can’t change that. I have no flexibility.” The Secret Service says the issue “is not one that can be attributed to the current Administration’s protection requirements alone, but rather has been an ongoing issue for nearly a decade due to an overall increase in operational tempo.”
We reviewed hundreds of pages of Secret Service files to get a flavor for what these bills look like. Some highlights:
The Trump family’s Aspen trip last March was budgeted to cost $333,861, a detail picked up in a CBS News report. That trip wound up including a $42,000 hotel bill, more than $16,000 in car rentals and a $2,267 bill from REI. Prices were so high in the glitzy resort town that the Secret Service needed to file a request for a variance from the official government rate to house Trump’s son, Eric, and his wife.
Trump spent 23 out of his first 84 days of his presidency at his Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Housing Secret Service agents for these frequent trips is extremely expensive. Hotels in the Palm Beach area regularly bill the Secret Service tens of thousands of dollars. We found one Marriott hotel bill exceeding $130,000 and another for more than $68,000 An Embassy Suites in West Palm Beach stay that cost more than $80,000.
We also found numerous bills for Mar-A-Lago and Trump National Golf Club resorts. These bills, while sizeable, are significantly less pricey than those at Hyatt, Marriott or other hotels where more Secret Service agents are likely staying while in Florida.
Trump’s proclivity for expensive travel is surely running up Secret Service costs in a way that displays little regard for the everyday Americans who put him in office. However, it should be noted that protecting a president if often extremely expensive. Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, was long critical of President Barack Obama’s travel costs, calculating the cost of the Obama family’s travel added up to nearly $100 million. for the full eight year term and accusing the family of living a “lavish, jet-setting lifestyle.”
It is abundantly clear that the Trump administration stands for nothing other than that slashing services for the poor and disadvantaged, while providing tax cuts for their corporate allies and lavish travel for the faux-populist plutocrats in charge of our government.