Budget watchdogs are criticizing the cost of President Trump’s visits to Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Florida. Mr. Trump has been at his so-called “Winter White House” the past three weekends. That’s 11 of his first 33 days in office. The travel has an estimated price tag of $10 million.
Between Secret Service and police surrounding the estate, and the U.S. Coast Guard in the surrounding waters, Mar-a-Lago is a fortress when the president is here. The White House won’t disclose the exact cost of Mr. Trump’s visits, but the $10 million estimate is based on figures from a similar trip by President Obama in 2013.
Air Force One accounts for a big chunk of the presidential travel budget, costing more than $180,000 per hour to operate, reports CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez. That means the roughly four-hour roundtrip flight to his seaside estate costs more than $700,000.
“If he’s going down there every weekend, the costs are going to add up pretty quickly,” said Tom Fitton, president of watchdog group Judicial Watch. Fitton is pressing the administration to release Mr. Trump’s travel costs.
“He doesn’t need to go to Florida every weekend. He can work at the White House or up at Camp David,” Fitton said.
Mr. Trump often attacked his predecessor over his travel. He once tweeted: “President @barackobama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars---Unbelievable!”
Four years ago, a weekend Mr. Obama spent in South Florida cost taxpayers $3.6 million. The Pentagon spent about $2.8 million for Air Force One plus support aircraft and military personnel. The Secret Service and the Coast Guard added nearly $800,000.
During his eight years in office, Mr. Obama racked up about $97 million in travel costs. Mr. Trump is on pace to eclipse that by the end of his first year.
Another cost of keeping Mr. Trump safe? Disruptions to businesses near Mar-a-Lago. The airspace around Lantana Airport in Palm Beach County is restricted whenever the president is in town. On an average day, there are around 300 takeoffs and landings. But when the president is there, nothing’s moving — except the bottom line for businesses that operate out of this airport. They say they lose about $30,000 each weekend they’re closed.
Others welcome the presidential visits to Palm Beach. Ed Kassatly owns a boutique in the ritzy Worth Avenue shopping district.
“President Trump will bring many more high-end visitors to the community, which is definitely going to help everyone on a high economic scale,” Kassatly said.
Regardless of who is in office, presidential trips are never cheap. Clearly, the president must be kept safe. But he also needs to travel with a large contingent of aides so he can continue running the government, especially during emergencies.