Wonkette Photoshoop

Donald Trump, for all his imbecility and incompetence, has one truly impressive talent: He knows how to grift. This is not the same as being a great businessman, as his bankruptcies and multiple failed enterprises readily illustrate. (Trump Steaks! The Trump Shuttle! Trump Organic Free-Range Condoms!) But when it comes to petty shit that can squeeze out a few tens or hundreds of bucks, Trump is on it, like refusing to pay his contractors when he was building casinos, or making sure his 2016 campaign paid top dollar to rent rooms in Trump Tower, and to maintain his fleet of gold-plated trashjets. Since becoming "president," the grift has continued, as Dok Zoom's pretend boyfriend David Fahrenthold details in yet another jaw-dropping Washington Post story about just part of the money Donald Trump's businesses make from renting rooms to the Secret Service, which has to stay close to Trump at all times.

As with most of the reporting that earned Fahrenthold a Pulitzer Prize in 2017, the piece is a combination of dogged research and an eye for details that just leave you blinking in astonishment. The bottom line is that records Fahrenthold was able to compile -- some from the public record, others from watchdog groups' lawsuits, plus interviews with insiders -- "show more than $471,000 in payments from taxpayers to Trump's companies." But that's just a start, since, as he notes, "these records cover only a fraction of Trump's travel during a fraction of his term — the actual total is likely to be higher."

For instance, during the first year of Trump's maladministration, his Mar-a-Lago club charged the Secret Service rates up to $650 a night. Later, that nightly rate seems to have dropped some, to payments of "$396.15, dozens more times in 2018." But don't go thinking that had anything to do with the Trump Organization deciding the high costs looked bad. Don't be silly! Instead, it appears that's because the "2018 receipts list the Secret Service as an "honorary member" of the club, which could have made it eligible for a member discount."

Such a great deal maker!


We'll Leave The Overpriced Gaudy Light On For You

Fahrenthold duly notes that conflict of interest regulations don't apply to the chief executive. And the Secret Service is, by law, exempt from normal per diem limits on what government employees can pay for rooms. Nobody wants a president getting shot because the Secret Service had to stay a mile away to save a few hundred bucks. (This seems like a good place to remind you Terrible Ones of the commenting rules, too.)

So for an early 2017 trip to Mar-A-Lago, those $650 a night charges were well beyond what the government would allow a mere acting deputy undersecretary for slashing climate regulations to pay. Most of the entourage stayed elsewhere, but the three $650 rooms at the resort cost

more than triple the normal limit on federal spending for a hotel room in that area, which was $182. It was even more than what the State Department paid for rooms at Mar-a-Lago around the same time, which was $520 to $546.

Don't worry, though: A Secret Service spokesperson explained that's just duh, because "The operational needs of the Secret Service can differ from those in the Department of State."

And then there's the three-room cottage at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, in New Jersey, which the Secret Service rented for $17,000 a month, according to 2017 receipts. That's insanely out of line from nearby luxury home rentals in Bedminster, where Zillow showed the average monthly rent for three or more bedrooms was $3,400, and even the priciest ran $8,500. But none of them were as good, don't you know.

We HAVE TO Grift. It's the Law.

Just to keep you whomperjawed, Fahrenthold contrasts those records with Eric Trump's blithe bullshitting about what a bargain the taxpayers get. Last year, when Trump was hot on holding the international G-7 summit at his Trump Doral International Golf Emporium, Bordello, and Fast Auto Detailing Center, Eric Trump bragged to Yahoo Finance that it's just silly to think his dad would make a profit from filling his hotel with diplomats at premium rates in Florida's summer off season, because Donald Trump doesn't pay himself to stay at his own resorts, silly:

"If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free," Trump said. "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.

Except Fahrenthold has the receipts, and not a one of them shows the Secret Service paying $50 a night. Then again, most of the records are invisible, so maybe the cheapest visits are among the hidden documents. That must be it.

Further, the con man in chief's con man son insisted the Trump Organization is legally obligated to charge all government guests something, because that's just the law, and boy, does his family ever respect the law! (Maybe that exclamation point should be a question mark.)

Needless to say, Fahrenthold, that nosy nosypants, isn't sure he agrees with you 100% on your police work, there, Eric:

Eric Trump did not say what law required Trump to charge his own government, and the Secret Service did not respond to questions asking what law he was referring to.

What's more, he notes, internal guidelines for the the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service's parent agency, say that "DHS may accept gifts to carry out program functions." And nah, nobody from the Trump Organization or the Secret Service would give straight answers about that supposed law that forces the Trumps to charge top rates. If it exists at all, it must be a really recent law, since neither of the presidents Bush nor Bill Clinton charged the Secret Service to use facilities at their various vacation homes and ranches. (Obama, that rootless cosmopolitan, stayed at hotels when he went to Hawaii to use diamonds as golf balls, at taxpayer expense.)

Disclosure Is For Little People

And then there's the pesky detail of actually following laws that any fool investigative reporter can look up:

The Secret Service is required to tell Congress twice a year about what it spends to protect Trump at his properties.

But since 2016, it has only filed two of the required six reports, according to congressional offices. The reasons, according to Secret Service officials: key personnel left and nobody picked up the job.

Even in those two reports, the lines for Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago were blank.

Ever the diligent fact-chaser, Fahrenthold asked about all that, and did his best to parse what he could get from Grifters_R_ Us.gov:

The Secret Service officials said only that they abide by the law, but they did not elaborate. They are probably referring to a provision that requires them to tell Congress about "permanent" costs. They may not consider anything they've done at either club permanent.

"Loopholes" are awesome if they let you cover shit up, and terrible if they protect whistleblowers or asylum seekers.

Coming Soon: Endless Revelations Of Fuckery!

And that's just some of the completely infuriating stuff Fahrenthold uncovered -- which, as we keep reminding you, is also only a sliver of the information that's even available. He closes with another mystery: For stuff like travel to Trump's Châteaux des ordures, the Secret Service has to be on site, so there's simply no avoiding some of what the Trumps extort from Secret Service (he also mentions that sometimes, when on-site managers ask too much, Secret Service honchos have called Eric to ask for a more flexible rate).

But what the fuck is up with this?

Why did the Secret Service spend so much at Trump's D.C. hotel, a place where — unlike Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago — Trump has not stayed overnight since taking office? In response to records request from NBC News, the Department of Homeland Security released a listing of 39 payments there during Trump's first year, totaling $159,000.

The documents do not give the reasons for those payments — or give the rate that Trump's company charged.

That story should be a doozy. $159,000 is one hell of a lot of shrimp cocktail.

And as proof God loves irony, a federal appeals court today threw out one of the three current lawsuits alleging Trump has violated the Constitution's emoluments clause, blocking Congress from demanding Trump's business records. Isn't America a wonderful place?

[WaPo / CNN / Wonkette photoshoop based on image by "slgckgc," Creative Commons license 2.0; Trump bucks by Eric Perlin]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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