WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s travel to his private club in Florida has cost over an estimated $20 million in his first 80 days as president, putting the president on pace in his first year of office to surpass former President Barack Obama’s spending on travel for his entire eight years.
The outsized spending on travel stands in stark relief to Trump’s calls for belt tightening across the federal government and the fact that he regularly criticized Obama for costing the American taxpayer money every time he took a trip.
Given variations in each trip, estimating the security costs around a presidential trip is difficult. But a 2016 Government Accountability Office report about a four-day trip Obama took to Florida in 2013 — one similar to Trump’s trips — found the total cost to the Secret Service and Coast Guard was $3.6 million.
To date, Trump has spent six weekends — and a total of 21 days — at Mar-A-Lago, his private Palm Beach club. The total estimated costs for those trips are around $21.6 million.
Obama, by contrast, spent just under $97 million on travel in his eight years as president, according to documents reviewed by Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog. These trips included personal trips — including ski trips to Aspen and the Obama’s annual family vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts — and work trips, like a visit to Everglades National Park on Earth Day in 2015.
Trump’s frequent weekend travel makes it all but certain the 45th President will surpass Obama’s spending in his first term, likely within months.
The spending comes as Trump asks the federal government to slash non-defense spending by $54 billion, including deep cuts to the State Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and the wholesale elimination of other federal programs. The proposed cuts, which are unlikely to be adopted in total, will correspond with $54 billion in increases to defense spending.
Trump’s frequent trips to Florida will likely end soon. Businesses in Palm Beach County have been told to expect the president to visit through May, but that Trump will likely stop visiting after that because the weather in the area begins to get stiflingly hot.
Instead, many expect Trump will then start making frequent trips to his penthouse apartment at Trump Tower in New York City — where first lady Melania Trump has been living for the first part of 2017 as their son, Baron, finishes school — and his private Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster Township, New Jersey.
Trump is said to be particularly fond of his New Jersey property. Ivanka Trump was married there, and Trump used the country club as president-elect to put together his government after winning November’s election. In a sign of his love for the club, Trump has expressed a desire to be buried on the property.
But as much as the trips are a budget problem for Trump, they are also a public relations issue.
The president was an outspoken critic of Obama’s travel, routinely slamming his predecessor on Twitter for his holiday trips home to Hawaii.
“The habitual vacationer, @BarackObama, is now in Hawaii. This vacation is costing taxpayers $4 milion +++ while there is 20% unemployment,” Trump tweeted in 2011 with an incorrect unemployment figure.
Trump later tweeted: “President @BarackObama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars——Unbelievable!”
High costs of security and travel
Despite these comments, Trump and his family have proven to be an expensive first family to protect.
Not only does Trump travel frequently, but New York City officials have said it costs between $127,000 to $146,000 a day to protect first lady Melania Trump when she is in New York and the president is not there.
Trump has yet to visit New York as president.
The extensive needs of the Trump family have put strains staffing on the Secret Service, too.
Dozens of agents from field offices across the country, including New York, have been temporarily pulled off their normal criminal investigation duties to work two-week rotations protecting members of the large Trump family, Secret Service officials told CNN.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said earlier this month that the Department of Homeland Security will ask for additional funding to protect Trump.
“They need a lot more agents, not just because of the Trump era, although that is additional because he has a lot of children and grandchildren,” Kelly told senators on the Homeland Security Committee. “We need more agents and we need more uniformed personnel.”
Kelly also acknowledged the strain the Secret Service is under.
“We need a larger Secret Service,” Kelly said, “because we need to get some of these people a little bit of time at home with their families.