- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Federal agencies spend more than $4.4 million for each trip President Trump takes to his Florida golf resort, according to a new government audit Tuesday that looked at trips in early 2017.

About $60,000 was paid directly to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s resort, to rent space for Secret Service operations and to lodge Defense Department employees during four early Florida trips, the Government Accountability Office said.

Meanwhile, the Secret Service spent nearly $400,000 to send agents to protect Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. on trips to Uruguay, the Dominican Republic and the United Arab Emirates, GAO said.

The costs in each case are on top of what is normally spent to protect the president and his family no matter where they are.

Most of the additional costs for Mr. Trump’s Florida vacations goes to pay for aircraft — including flying Air Force One. But some of the costs are for hotel rooms, food and rental vehicles for staffers who wouldn’t otherwise have to be on site working, GAO said.

Tuesday’s audit was requested by congressional Democrats who’d wondered about the additional costs Mr. Trump notched on taxpayers’ dime with his eagerness to get out of Washington.

The GAO found that the hotel payments for staffers to stay at Mar-a-Lago appeared to be within regulations for allowable rates for federal employees.

But the fact that the president’s property earned money from those stays could be a problem.

Mr. Trump is facing multiple lawsuits that contend he’s breaking the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution, one of which prevents him from earning income from the government beyond his salary.

Federal payments to his property, even if it covers services, could run afoul of that, the president’s legal opponents have argued.

The GAO based its calculations of travel costs on four trips Mr. Trump took to Mar-a-Lago in early 2017, just after he was sworn in.

The president has made 19 trips to Mar-a-Lago in his first two years in office, including one last weekend, when he golfed with Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

In its report, GAO said that while auditors were able to figure out the costs, the Secret Service and the Defense Department did not follow the rules in reporting those costs in regular reports to Congress.

Both the Pentagon and Secret Service agreed to take steps to do better in the future.

Dave Boyer contributed to this story.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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