On Wednesday night, when President Donald Trump addressed campaign supporters at a super PAC fundraiser from behind a Trump Hotels lectern in a room at his Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., one of his company’s most faithful customers accompanied him.
The U.S. Secret Service.
The government agency charged with protecting the president has paid his businesses at least $471,000 to fulfill its congressional mandate, according to documents The Washington Post recently obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. That’s money from U.S. taxpayers flowing to the Trump Organization, with a venerable 155-year-old law enforcement organization being used like one of Michael Cohen’s Delaware shell companies and serving as a conduit for presidential profit. And that $471,000 figure? It’s only through April 2018.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance in October, Trump Organization Executive Vice President Eric Trump claimed his company charged the government only enough to recoup its costs when hosting the president. (Eric Trump also denied the new Washington Post reporting.) But the rates the new documents detail — $650 per room at Mar-a-Lago! $17,000 to rent a cottage for a month at Trump Bedminster! payments to the D.C. hotel despite Trump’s never having spent a night there as president! — seem a bit higher than what it costs to clean a room and freshen the linens.
These formerly federal funds can and do reach the president’s pocket, albeit through another conduit: Trump’s 400-plus business interests are held in a revocable trust that is not blind and can “distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request,” as ProPublica reported. (Maybe the president withdrew $1 from it to buy a Coke while you read that last sentence — we simply don’t know.)
The rates these new documents detail seem a bit higher than what it costs to clean a room and freshen the linens.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the chair of the House Oversight Committee sent a letter asking the Secret Service to detail all of its spending at Trump properties. But the agency is just one of the executive branch entities that have rendered unto Trump the money that had once belonged to taxpayers.
A complete accounting of how much taxpayers have forked over to the Trump Organization since its CEO’s election is as likely as a Trump pardon for Cohen. The Post’s recent scoop, however, follows a microtrend of the government’s occasionally releasing a little information about some expenditures at Trump businesses months or years after they occurred. What the government has allowed Americans to see demonstrates that the corruption is real: Substantial amounts of your money are, in fact, being spent at Trump properties, many of which are reported to be floundering otherwise.
For example, in April, CNN reported that “Defense Department personnel have charged more than $300,000 at Trump-branded properties since the start of Donald Trump’s presidency through last November.” That figure has increased, too: From August 2017 through last July (a period that partly overlaps with CNN’s findings) the Defense Department reported spending close to $184,000 at Trump Turnberry in Scotland alone.
And in just the first seven months of his term, the State Department had already dropped more than $79,000 at three of Trump’s foreign resorts, according to data ProPublica compiled. ProPublica also reported that the State Department had a dedicated credit card solely for purchases at Mar-a-Lago. And the president’s July 2018 trip to his Turnberry golf course cost the State Department $234,000 more, its inspector general informed Congress more than a year later, as The Hill reported.
In 2019, the Democratic-controlled House passed a provision to ban federal spending at Trump businesses, largely along partisan lines. Needless to say, the GOP-led Senate — home to 33 members who have been spotted at Trump’s D.C. hotel or have reported disbursing campaign funds there (32 Republicans, one Joe Manchin) — did not concur. Sen. David Perdue, R–Ga., dined there with the president and House GOP leaders on Wednesday night.
The Trump Organization’s bottom line also has benefited from decisions by top Trump administration officials — people whose income and authority depend on staying in our fickle president’s good graces.
For example, last year, the General Services Administration, led by Trump appointee Emily Murphy, junked longstanding plans to move FBI headquarters from across the street from Trump’s hotel to the Washington suburbs. Such a move could have opened its current lot up to development as a luxury hotel that would compete with the president’s. Now, his business doesn’t have to worry about losing its marketing distinction as the only Forbes five-star property in downtown Washington.
And during the government shutdown in December 2018 and January 2019, National Park Service visitor centers across the country were shuttered and trash cans on the National Mall overflowed. Yet the NPS and the GSA reached a funding agreement that allowed the Old Post Office Tower — a park service site that co-locates with the president’s hotel — to reopen and continue to operate for a year, if needed.
None of these controversies has been headline news because of the firehose that is the Trump administration’s questionable conduct. And yet almost every one of them could have led, in a different White House, to a congressional inquiry.
Then there was last year’s Salute to America on the National Mall on the Fourth of July. ABC News reported that the Trumpian red, white and blue extravaganza cost the federal government 2.45 million greenbacks. Whether the event was a good investment for taxpayer money is debatable. (It wasn’t.)
But it paid off handsomely for the Trump Hotel D.C.: Room rates there over the holiday started at $1,151.