It’s a shocker, we know: Newly released documents raise fresh concerns about the extent to which President Trump is personally profiting from his public office, showing that the Secret Service spent more than $250,000 at Trump properties over the first five months of he was in office — an average of nearly $2,000 a day.
The records were obtained by the nonprofit watchdog group Property of the People through a Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit. They provide only basic details on credit card spending by the Secret Service at Trump properties and businesses from January 27 through June 9 of 2017, showing a total of $254,020.94 of expenditures at Trump hotels and golf clubs. The Washington Post reports that Trump made 21 visits to his properties during that time — and has made more than 100 additional trips since then.
The records do not show what the payments were for, but the spending often appears to match up with Trump’s visits to his own properties. A golf outing by the president in early April 2017, for example, appears to have led to nearly $27,000 in Secret Service spending at Trump’s club in a single day.
Ongoing ethical concerns: Trump refused to divest from his businesses or put them in a blind trust after taking office and has frequently visited his own properties as president while his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, run the Trump Organization — an arrangement that raised ethical concerns. The Constitution’s domestic emoluments clause prohibits the president from receiving payments other than his salary from the federal or state governments.
“Due to his overt self-dealing and refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, Donald Trump has turned the American presidency into a racket,” Ryan Shapiro, the executive director of Property of the People, told the Post.
Trump has dismissed such concerns. He recently called the emoluments clause “phony” and has reportedly said it does not prevent him from charging the federal government for services rendered. Trump’s lawyers have argued that the emoluments provision only prevents him from being paid as part of “an employment-type relationship” with a foreign or domestic government, Politico’s Natasha Bertrand says.
Trump’s son Eric has said that the Trump Organization charges the taxpayers “at cost” for federal employees but has not explained how that “cost” figure is calculated, the Post’s David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell and Joshua Partlow note.
Trump has also claimed that being president will cost him billions of dollars.