Donald Trump Still Charging Secret Service Top Dollar At Florida Trash Palace
Donald Trump may be out of the White House, but he's certainly not out of the grifting business, as if such a thing were even genetically possible. And as the Washington Post's David Fahrenthold reports today, Trump is continuing one of his more charming presidential grifts, making money off the US Secret Service detail that protects him. The man continues to impress: Even in his post-presidency, he manages to blow right through the old norms of what we put up with from elected leaders.
According to federal records requested by the Post, Trump has continued to bill the Secret Service $396.15 every night for a room at Mar-a-Lago, the same rate the private club charged the agency when he was president. Since he left office, that's come to a total of $40,011.15, at least through the end of April.
Fahrenthold, ever the scrupulous keeper of strictly fact-based financial tabs on Trump, dutifully notes that while Trump stayed an extra week at Mar-a-Lago before decamping to his summer residence at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, "It was unclear whether he continued to charge the Secret Service into May."
You never know, after all. Maybe Trump got religion!
Fahrenthold reminds us that while Trump was "president," his businesses charged US taxpayers over $2.5 million, and that a lot of it was for Secret Service details guarding him at Trump Organization properties. Now that he's no longer president, the Secret Service doesn't need to have as big a team on the property to provide protection, so the agents stay at other hotels in Palm Beach, presumably at lower cost.
But security experts say that the agency still needs one or more spaces near the protectee for meetings, breaks, communications equipment and supervisors. At Mar-a-Lago, that means renting from Trump.
Since fall 2017, Mar-a-Lago has charged the agency the same rate of $396.15 per night. On its invoices to the Secret Service, Mar-a-Lago wrote that this rate was "billed at cost." The Trump Organization has not explained how it chose that rate, down to the penny.
The figure is far above the $205 spending limit that has applied to most government employees looking for rooms in Palm Beach County this spring. The Secret Service is allowed to spend more than the limit if its protective mission requires.
And talk about a sweet deal (for Trump, at least): Even though the agents may be rooming elsewhere, the fact that Trump is grouted into place on a throne in his trash palace means the one room is a permanent expense. In fact, the amount he's able to soak the government for hasn't really changed that much since Trump left office, as Fahrenthold explains.
Agents this spring rented fewer rooms at a time than they had when Trump visited Mar-a-Lago as president; back then, records show, they rented four or five rooms at the club for every night Trump was there. But costs for the single room in recent months added up because Trump was at Mar-a-Lago every night, not just on weekends and vacations. The end result: The Secret Service paid Mar-a-Lago nearly as much in the spring of 2021 as it had during comparable periods in 2018 or 2019.
We can only assume that Trump spends at least a part of each day trying to figure out how he can somehow force more agents to rent rooms at Mar-a-Lago. It must drive him crazy that he can't just have someone order them to.
For the record, Fahrenthold notes that none of this is normal, not for a president, and not for a former president; historians confirmed there's never been a sitting or former president who charged the government rent for a Secret Service detail.
"It's tacky," Jeffrey A. Engel, the director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, said of Trump's new charges. "Just because you can make a buck doesn't mean you should make a buck. And especially when you have a situation where you're an ex-president. You're not going to starve."
Fahrenthold also points out that, like other former presidents, Trump is eligible to bill taxpayers for office space in his post-presidency, although a spox for the General Services Agency confirmed that no office rent has been paid out to Mar-a-Lago. Well not yet, it hasn't, but now Fahrenthold and the Post had to go and remind Trump he can do it. Expect to hear stories about a furious Trump yelling at staff and demanding they dummy up some invoices for office rent going back to January 20.
We enjoy this paragraph especially, which sounds a bit like a Roger Tory Peterson birding guide:
Trump is expected to remain at Bedminster for most of the summer, following his seasonal pattern. While Trump was president, the Bedminster club also charged the Secret Service for a four-room cottage used by the agents guarding Trump. The rate there was $567 per night.
Ever the stickler for only saying what he has receipts for, Fahrenthold adds, "It is unclear whether those charges have resumed, now that Trump has returned. Both the Secret Service and the Trump Organization declined to say."
Golly, we can only wonder whether the next public records request from the Post will show Trump's charging that amount, to the penny. But there's still room for mystery. For instance, who has the golf cart rental contract?
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