New report shows how Trump businesses took money from the government — even while they closed down
When Donald Trump was running for president in 2016, he insisted that if he won the election, there would be a strict separation between the federal government and his business interests — that he would be “completely isolating” himself from his businesses. But according to Washington Post reporters David A. Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey, the president’s high-end properties have “charged the U.S. government more than $1.1 million in private transactions since Trump took office” in January 2017.
Documents showing $1.1 million in charges, Fahrenthold and Dawsey report in the Post, were released by the U.S. Secret Service after the Post filed a public-records lawsuit. Those documents included receipts and invoices from Trump’s businesses, and the Post reporters note that “$188,000 in previously unknown charges” increases the Post’s “running total of payments to Trump’s properties related to the presence of Secret Service agents.”
One of those businesses is the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, which “charged the Secret Service more than $21,800 to rent a cottage and other rooms” while it was closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump, according to Fahrenthold and Dawsey, did not visit his Bedminster property while it was “closed and otherwise off limits to guests,” but his daughter, White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump, reportedly did.
Fahrenthold and Dawsey explain, “The family visited the club in April to celebrate Passover, a period that overlaps with several of the largest Secret Service charges. At the time, both the District of Columbia — where Ivanka Trump lives — and New Jersey had imposed ‘stay-at-home’ orders, telling residents to avoid travel except under limited circumstances.”
The Post reporters, however, note that the Secret Service does not appear to have violated New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s stay-at-home order, which employees of the federal government were exempt from.
Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the government watchdog group Public Citizen, finds it “appalling” that Trump’s businesses are profiting at the expense of taxpayers — especially in light of the toll that the coronavirus pandemic has taken on state budgets.
Gilbert told the Post, “The waste inherent in this is appalling…. They’re nickel-and-diming the American people at a moment when every penny counts.”
The Fahrenthold/Dawsey article published on Thursday isn’t the first time the Post has reported on the Bedminster business making money from taxpayers, but the Post reporters point out that “the new documents show that the rentals lasted much longer than previously known. Instead of lasting only for the summer months, when Trump usually visited, the rentals stretched from May to the end of October, the new documents show.”
According to a former Trump official, the Secret Service chose to rent out rooms for six months at a time because the president did not announce his travel schedule far in advance. That source, presumably interviewed on condition of anonymity, told the Post, “We always had space reserved at Bedminster weeks before the president arrived, just in case. If he came in the Oval on, let’s say, on a Wednesday, and said, ‘I want to go this weekend,’ you have to be ready.”