Presidential travel is always an expensive proposition, requiring elaborate security measures, including a sizable Secret Service detail. With a jet-setting first family such as the Trumps, the costs quickly balloon.
It’s not only that millions are drained from the public coffers each time President Trump takes a golf break at one of his resorts — which he does with marked frequency. When his adult children head out on holiday or to promote the family business, taxpayers must subsidize their adventures as well.
The exact amounts are hard to come by, but what is known is jaw-dropping. In a one-month period in early 2017, the president spent $13.6 million on just four trips to his Mar-a-Lago property in South Florida, according to estimates by the Government Accountability Office. That’s an average of $3.4 million per trip — at minimum. The actual price tag is most likely higher, the agency noted in a report released last February, but greater accounting precision was impossible because the White House refused multiple requests for information. Compounding the challenge, the Secret Service tends to be lax in fulfilling its reporting requirements.
As president, Mr. Trump has visited his properties outside the Washington region more than 50 times, according to The Washington Post. His sons Eric and Donald Jr. have taken business trips to far-flung locales including Dubai, Ireland and India. A single visit in 2017 by Eric Trump to a Trump property under construction in Uruguay cost taxpayers nearly $100,000 just in hotel bills for Secret Service agents and embassy staff members.
It took President Barack Obama two terms to run up a total travel bill of $97 million. Based on the Government Accountability Office’s estimates, Mr. Trump blew past that long ago.
So much for candidate Trump’s pledge in 2015 that he would save the taxpayers money because “I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done.”
Democratic lawmakers, perturbed by the cost of the Trump clan’s globe-trotting — and, even more, by the administration’s lack of transparency — are pushing for an accounting. Among other things, they want to know how much of the money spent at Trump properties ends up in the pockets of the president and his family.
In recent weeks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been in negotiations with Congress over legislation that would return the Secret Service to his department from the Department of Homeland Security. As part of a deal, Democrats have demanded that the agency promptly disclose its costs for protecting Trump family members when they travel. Mr. Mnuchin has insisted that any such disclosure be delayed until after the 2020 election, according to a senior Trump administration official, to avoid politicizing the Secret Service.
Of course he has. If there is one constant with this otherwise erratic White House, it’s Mr. Trump’s commitment to concealing information that could enable voters to hold him or his people accountable.
Mr. Trump loves to boast that he is an open book. “I’m the most transparent president probably in the history of this country,” he told reporters on May 22 at a hastily convened press event at the White House.
This is true only if you measure transparency by the president’s tweets, which are too often characterized by incoherence and dishonesty.
By every other metric, Mr. Trump is a master of muddiness.
He has fought (contrary to the post-Watergate tradition of every other president — or major-party nominee) to keep his personal finances — and whatever conflicts of interest or other inconvenient facts they might reveal — under wraps. He has sued to prevent the release of his business records to congressional investigators and to prevent two banks from turning over information about their work with him. He still refuses to release his tax returns.
Well before the Ukraine scandal that led to his impeachment, he vowed to stonewall all of Congress’s investigative efforts. He has dismissed congressional subpoenas for documents and ordered witnesses not to testify.
He refused to sit for an interview with the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel tasked with investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and Mr. Mueller found Mr. Trump’s written answers to questions “inadequate.” The special counsel’s report documented multiple instances of the president attempting to obstruct the inquiry.
Mr. Trump has done away with regular White House press briefings, replacing them with on-the-fly gaggles in which reporters often must hurl questions at him over the roar of Marine One. He has required White House staffers and interns to sign nondisclosure agreements. It took a lawsuit to compel him to release even partial information from the White House visitors log.
The fledgling Trump administration, according to an analysis by The Associated Press for 2017, “censored, withheld or said it couldn’t find records sought by citizens, journalists and others more often last year than at any point in the past decade.”
Mr. Trump’s claims of historical transparency earned him a “Pants on Fire” rating last year from PolitiFact.
The president clearly believes that he should not have to answer to anyone for anything, be it his stiff-arming of Congress, his “discussions” with Ukraine or the cost of his golf habit. He is wrong. As with so many of Mr. Trump’s evasions, Americans deserve to know how much they are paying for his family’s highflying lifestyle. And they deserve to know before they cast their votes in November.