The U.S. Secret Service has spent more than $ 500,000 over the past four years at Donald Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club, taxpayer funds that went directly to the former president’s business.
The total was $ 521,275, according to records obtained by NJ Advance Media under the Freedom of Information Act. The money went for housing as well as space for a command post.
Recently released Secret Service files indicated that $ 485,860 went to Bedminster Golf Club, where Trump spent many weekends during the warmer months of his presidency. Another amount of $ 35,415 had previously been reported by NJ Advance Media as part of the $ 2.4 million spent by the Secret Service on travel, rental cars, hotel rooms, golf carts, portable toilets and other expenses.
During his first three years in office, Trump also used Bedminster for extended jaunts each August, much like Barack Obama visited Martha’s Vineyard and George W. Bush went to his ranch in Crawford, in Texas.
Unlike other presidents, Trump has not parted with his businesses or handed them over to a blind trust, despite handing day-to-day control to his sons. The then head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr., said the arrangement was “not in keeping with the tradition of our presidents over the past 40 years.”
Previous White House ethics advisers told NJ Advance Media the payments to the golf club likely went against the constitutional ban against a president for an indemnity in addition to his salary. Asset donated his annual salary of $ 400,000 to various federal agencies.
“We’ve never had a president who used the Oval Office as a money-making opportunity – and that’s further proof of this shocking practice,” said Norman Eisen, senior researcher at the Brookings Institution who served as Special Advisor and Special Assistant to the President on Ethics and Government Reform under Democrat Barack Obama.
“Because he retained ownership of his business, the money ends up hitting his pocket. It’s not just untrue, it’s probably unconstitutional,” Eisen said.
Richard Painter, a professor of law at the University of Minnesota and chief ethics counsel for Republican George W. Bush, called the payments “a violation of the national emoluments clause, which limits the salary and other emoluments of the president to those set by Congress.
“It illegally complemented each time the federal government paid for people to stay in its clubs,” Painter said.
Trump’s post-presidential office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to at NBC News, Trump visited his hotels or golf clubs for 40% of the days he was president. That included 99 days in Bedminster, just after the 133 days he spent at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump said in May 2017 that it was cheaper for the taxpayer and less disruptive for him to spend time in Bedminster rather than Trump Tower in New York City.
Bedminster’s revenue stood at $ 14.7 million in 2020. That’s 26% less than the $ 19.8 million the club earned in 2016, according to Trump’s latest personal financial documents. Part of the drop was due to the pandemic, as the club temporarily closed its clubhouse, fitness center and restaurants last year.
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