President Trump is spending his third consecutive weekend away from Washington, D.C., at his luxury resort Mar-a-Lago in Florida. The series of getaways is drawing the attention of government watchdogs and members of Congress over associated security and travel costs.
Visits to his southern golf resort –- which Trump dubs the “Winter White House” –- will continue frequently over the next four years, aides say.
“The taxpayer is on the hook every time the president flies to Mar-a-Lago. Every time the president uses Air Force One, we pay for it,” said Tom Fitton, president of the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which has been filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to obtain government records and reveal the full cost of presidential trips. The group has monitored President Obama and now President Trump.
While the travel is not unprecedented or inherently improper, the Trump presidency does pose a highly unusual –- and undeniably costly -– logistical and security dynamic given Trump’s multiple homes in expensive locations and four active adult children who each require security protection.
The Trump administration won’t provide dollar figures for the initial trips to Florida, but one presidential trip to the Palm Beach area in 2013 cost taxpayers around $3 million dollars, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimate from 2016.
“If President Trump is going to go back and forth to Florida every weekend, those costs could really skyrocket,” Fitton said. “The presidency is too big, it costs too much money and if anyone is able to cut down the cost, maybe President Trump can.”
Fitton suggested Trump spend weekends at one of his properties closer to Washington, or even Camp David, the presidential retreat.
The costs of presidential travel have been in the spotlight for decades. President George W. Bush took 77 trips to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, over 8 years, according to CBS’ Mark Knoller. Richard Nixon frequently spent short weekend trips at his “Winter White House” at Key Biscayne in Florida. Ronald Reagan made occasional trips to his home on the West Coast.
In the past, Trump has been sharply critical of the costs of presidential travel. He lambasted President Obama on Twitter for millions of dollars of “unbelievable!” travel expenses –- and suggested he spent more time golfing and campaigning than working for the American people.
In 2015, Trump went so far as to publicly pledge that he would “rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done,” The Hill reported. But so far, Trump has shown no indication he’s looking to cut down on his own presidential travel costs.
The White House did not respond to ABC News requests for comment about the travel, and the administration will not provide details about the cost of travel and security.
With every presidential visit, there are also added costs imposed on local governments playing host. The Palm Beach Sheriff’s office estimates they pay $60,000 in overtime pay each day when President Trump is in the area. During the Thanksgiving holiday, the county had to absorb $248,000 of overtime wages because Trumpwas in town.
“We’re hoping to get that reimbursed with the federal government right now, and going forward, if the president continues to come in,” said Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat representing the district that includes Mar-a-Lago.
Frankel, who represents Palm Beach, said Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago also have a local airport and some businesses “feeling the pain.” Latana Airport, the country airport, has been shut down for each of Trump’s visits this month.
“Whoever the president is, regardless of your political party you want a president to feel welcome and be safe,” Frankel said. “This has been his winter place for a very long time and he’s used to coming down and it is a beautiful venue … but maybe he should vary his trips. I’m being diplomatic.”
Palm Beach and New York City have asked Congress to help recoup the costs of protecting Trump between Election Day and his swearing in. New York City requested $35 million and Congress eventually allocated $7 million.
Trump also maintains a residence in New York City, where his wife and youngest son Barron reside, and another in Bedminster, New Jersey, among several others. All locations have required added security measures since he’s become president.
The New York City Police Department says it spends $500,000 a day just to protect the president’s midtown residence at TrumpTower.
As for the four Trump adult children, Secret Service has assigned protective details to each as they navigate busy careers, frequent global travel and active lifestyles –- adding to the cost of protecting the First Family.
“Regardless of location, whether it’s the White House or a private residence in New York, Chicago, Texas, or Florida, the Secret Service is confident our security plan consistently demonstrates the ability to evaluate and revolutionize our methods of security, ensuring the safest environment for those we are responsible for protecting,” an agency spokesman told media.