In response to President Donald Trump’s ludicrously expensive trips to his private resort, Mar-a-Lago, and several national security violations recently posted on the internet by unauthorized resort guests, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Tom Udall, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter this week to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a review of Trump’s exorbitant cost to taxpayers and his handling of classified materials in front of hotel guests.
“We are deeply concerned by recent reports that the President, his staff, and the Japanese Prime Minister discussed national security matters on ‘full view to fellow diners,’ and reviewed potentially sensitive national security material in apparent violation of security protocols,” wrote Warren, Udall, Whitehouse, and Cummings in a letter to Comptroller General and GAO head, Gene Dodaro. “In addition, we are concerned about the expenditure of taxpayer funds at Mar-a-Lago by the Secret Service and other government officials associated with the President.
“On February 11, 2017, President Trump announced that he and the First Lady were ‘hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mrs. Abe at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.’ That evening, North Korea announced that it had successfully fired a ballistic missile. President Trump reportedly communicated with staff about the launch via a cell phone while sitting with Prime Minister Abe in the middle of a public dining room. Following the call, the President’s dinner reportedly ‘morphed into a strategy session’ to discuss the missile launch. In addition to making sensitive phone calls in the dining room, aides reportedly used the camera lights on their cell phones to help President Trump and Prime Minister Abe view the documents – all while surrounded by Mar-a-Lago club members and wait staff. By conducting discussions in this manner, the President enabled private citizens without security clearances to potentially overhear sensitive or classified national security information.”
Besides allowing Mar-a-Lago visitors to post photographs of the abrupt security meeting between Trump and the Japanese Prime Minister on social media, the president’s security failed to prevent one guest from posting a Facebook photo with the man responsible for carrying the nuclear football. Before the photo was eventually deleted, the man holding the emergency satchel containing the president’s nuclear launch codes was identified as “Rick.”
“President Trump’s recent visit to Mar-a-Lago also raises concerns regarding his administration’s use of taxpayer funds,” the letter continued. “The President’s first trip to Mar-a-Lago after the inauguration cost taxpayers an estimated $3 million. The President returned to Mar-a-Lago the following weekend and is reportedly spending his third straight weekend in Palm Beach as well. When the President stays at Mar-a-Lago, he is accompanied by members of his staff, the Secret Service, and military aides. It is not clear how many of these individuals incur travel and room expenses using taxpayer dollars and if they are being charged fair and appropriate rates.”
Since Trump’s inauguration last month, his three trips to Mar-a-Lago have cost the federal treasury approximately $10 million, including police protection and Coast Guard patrols. According to NYPD estimates, New York City pays $500,000 per day in order to guard Trump Tower, which could cost $183 million annually. During Eric Trump’s business trip to Uruguay, the Secret Service and U.S. Embassy staffers ended up paying nearly $100,000 in hotel room bills.
Despite the fact that Trump’s attorney claimed the president would voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments to the U.S. Treasury, Trump has failed to fulfill this promise. The president also refuses to completely divest from his businesses, while his children continue to use taxpayer dollars to fund their commercial enterprises across the world.
The senators and Rep. Cummings concluded their letter by asking the GAO to conduct a thorough review of Trump’s apparent lax security protocols at Mar-a-Lago while calculating the expense incurred by the president’s unnecessary trips to his own resort and any inappropriate costs. The members also demanded to know if Trump has made any payments to the U.S. Treasury resulting from profits at his hotels as his lawyer claimed Trump would.
The GAO has not yet responded.