© Joe Raedle/Getty Images
President Donald Trump walks down the stairs after arriving on Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport to spend part of the weekend at Mar-a-Lago resort on February 17, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The Democratic lawmaker whose district includes President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is asking the White House to alleviate the “financial burden” of his near-weekly visits.
Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) called on Trump to either provide federal reimbursements to the local governments incurring increased security costs or cut back his trips to the resort.
“While we want the fullest protection for your visits, we hope you would be responsive to the losses of small businesses and residents of Palm Beach County,” Frankel wrote in a letter to Trump released on Monday, which was co-signed by fellow Democratic Florida Reps. Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch.
“If compensation is not assured of being forthcoming, we respectfully ask that you curtail your visits until such time as that matter is resolved favorably to our area.”
The lawmakers outlined the piling costs of Trump’s visits to Mar-a-Lago to date: $1.7 million in overtime work paid by the the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department and Fire Rescue and $60,000 in overtime to the City of West Palm Beach law enforcement handling protests.
Trump’s hosting of Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago next month is expected to cost the sheriff and fire departments $280,000 alone, according to the letter.
The Florida lawmakers also noted that flights are not allowed to take off at a local airport while Trump is at Mar-a-Lago, due to Secret Service restrictions. The company that manages the airport loses about $30,000 during each of Trump’s weekend visits and lost a $440,000 annual contract with a helicopter company that moved to another airport due to the security measure. Flight schools, banner flying and sightseeing businesses have also been impacted as a result, the lawmakers added.
“While we want the fullest protection for your visits, we hope that you would be responsive to the losses of small businesses and residents of Palm Beach County,” they wrote.
Trump has multiple times traveled to his family-owned businesses both during his presidential transition and since assuming office.
He stayed in the Washington area this past weekend, spending parts of Saturday and Sunday at one of his golf clubs in Sterling, Va. He later ate dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington Saturday evening.
The Government Accountability Office has been asked
to weigh in
In a March 24 letter to the lawmakers, GAO said it will examine how the president’s communications and classified information are secured when he’s traveling, including whether a secure space exists at Mar-a-Lago.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump and other Republicans sharply criticized Democrat Hillary Clinton for compromising national security by using a private email server.
Democrats have seized on Trump’s Feb. 11 visit to Mar-a-Lago with Abe as an example of what they say is Trump’s own carelessness with sensitive information.
In a letter sent to GAO last month seeking the review, the lawmakers said Trump reportedly communicated with staff about North Korea’s launch by cellphone while sitting with Abe in the middle of a public dining room. Trump, his staff and Abe also may have reviewed potentially sensitive national material in apparent violation of protocols, according to the Democrats.
“In addition to making sensitive phone calls in the dining room, aides reportedly used the camera lights on their cellphones to help President Trump and Prime Minister Abe view the documents — all while surrounded by Mar-a-Lago club members and wait staff,” the Democrats wrote in their letter to GAO.
“By conducting discussions in this manner, the president enabled private citizens without security clearances to potentially overhear sensitive or classified national security information,” they said.
GAO also will examine what measures, if any, the Secret Service and Defense Department have to ensure that charges for travel-related expenses incurred with providing protecting for trips to Mar-a-Lago are fair and reasonable. The Air Force operates the presidential aircraft, commonly known as Air Force One.
The Democrats, citing press reports, said each of Trump’s weekend trips to his Florida estate costs about $3 million. Noting that Trump is accompanied by members of his staff, military aides and Secret Service agents, the lawmakers said it’s 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.”
They have also asked GAO to determine if Trump is making good on a promise to voluntarily donate to the U.S. Treasury all profits his hotels earn from payments made by foreign governments. Donating the money would avoid the appearance of self-dealing, according to the lawmakers.