Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort trips cost taxpayers US$1 million a day

Protesters are seen as US President Donald Trump returns to Washington after spending the Thanksgiving holiday at his Mar-a-Lago resort on November 25, 2018.
Protesters are seen as US President Donald Trump returns to Washington after spending the Thanksgiving holiday at his Mar-a-Lago resort on November 25, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Four of US President Donald Trump's trips to his Florida home in 2017 cost taxpayers about US$13.6 million (S$18.4 million), amounting to nearly US$1 million a day, the US government's watchdog reported Tuesday (Feb 5).

The federal government's costs for the four trips included US$60,000 paid directly to Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report released the day of the president's annual State of the Union address.

Trump was at the Mar-a-Lago resort for portions of 14 days during the period the GAO examined from Feb 3 through March 5, 2017.

The GAO noted in its report that it did not include some expenses that are classified nor did it include salaries or benefits, including overtime, for Secret Service and Defence Department personnel or other government employees travelling with the president or involved with preparations for the trips.

The salaries and benefits would be paid regardless of their duties on those days, the GAO said.

The totals include operating costs for aircraft and boats and temporary duty costs such as transportation, meals, lodging and incidental expenses, according to the report.

Travel costs for White House staff are not included because the White House did not comply with a GAO request for the information, the report said.

The Department of Defence's costs for the Mar-a-Lago trips totaled nearly US$8.5 million for a range of expenses including government and commercial airfare, the use of government-owned boats, equipment rentals, meals and hotel rooms, according to the report.

The Department of Homeland Security, which houses the Secret Service, reported US$5.1 million in similar expenses.

The government also spent nearly US$400,000 protecting the president's two older sons during three international trips they took in early 2018, the office found.

Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Gary Peters of Michigan and House Government Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who requested the GAO report, said the findings provide "a snapshot of the tens of millions of dollars President Trump spends to travel to his Palm Beach resort - all at taxpayer expense - including government funds that are paid directly to a business in which the president himself has a financial interest."

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The White House Counsel's Office did not respond to requests for information that the GAO sent in April 2017 and January 2018, according to the report.

The GAO estimated in 2016 that a four-day trip by President Barack Obama to Chicago and Palm Beach in 2013 cost taxpayers about US$3.6 million.