Three-Year FOIA Battle Produces Records of Secret Service Spending at Mar-A-Lago, Bedminster, Amid Concerns About Self-Dealing in Trump Administration
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Properties owned by President Donald Trump in New Jersey and Florida charged the U.S. Secret Service more than $140,000 for lodging and other rooms, according to documents released today by Public Citizen.
According to an analysis of the documents by The Washington Post, which tallied up previously unreported hotel bills, the federal government spent nearly $87,000 over 147 days to rent a cottage at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., for the U.S. Secret Service. The cost of that New Jersey property rental was nearly $567 per day for most stays, except for three days in 2017, when taxpayers were charged $1,666 per day.
The Public Citizen documents also show that the Secret Service paid an “at cost” rate of $396.15 on 135 nights of lodging at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Club in Florida, for a previously unreported total of about $53,000 at that resort. Most of the bills uncovered for both New Jersey and Florida properties were from 2017 and 2018.
These bills, paid by U.S. taxpayers, contradict a statement by Trump’s son Eric in an October 2019 interview, in which Eric Trump claimed that Trump’s ownership of properties “saves a fortune” for the U.S. government. “If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free,” Eric Trump said at the time. “So everywhere that he goes, if he stays at one of his places, the government actually spends, meaning it saves a fortune because 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,” he added.
“Trump treats the presidency as a self-enrichment scheme,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Slowly, we’re beginning to learn the size of the bill to taxpayers. It should be crystal clear that this particular ploy is by no means ‘saving a fortune’ as Eric Trump preposterously claimed.”
The documents were disclosed by the Secret Service to Public Citizen last month after a three-year public records battle. “Aggressive use of federal public records law has been crucial to Public Citizen’s efforts to hold the Trump administration accountable over the past three years,” said Patrick Llewellyn, an attorney with Public Citizen. “This work requires diligence, patience and often lots of time, but it enables us to make the government more transparent and accountable to the people.”
Public Citizen’s public records battle with the Secret Service dates back to before Trump’s inauguration. On Jan. 6, 2017, Public Citizen submitted a FOIA request to the Secret Service for records related to the costs incurred by the Secret Service for Trump’s continued use of his home in New York and his other residences.
After three years and two administrative appeals challenging the adequacy of the agency’s search and withholdings under FOIA exemptions, Public Citizen successfully obtained disclosure of these records.
Selected highlights of the documents are available here.
A blog post on the FOIA request is here.