Gov't watchdog to examine cost of Trump's Florida travel

Posted March 30, 2017

President Donald Trump's frequent visits to Mar-a-Lago are more than just a brazen conflict of interest or a crimp on the economy of Palm Beach, Florida.

Trump has called Mar-a-Lago his "Winter White House", and White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently countered criticism of Trump's travel there.

The lawmakers had expressed concerns after photographs emerged of the president and his staff discussing what was believed to be national security matters in full view of diners at the resort.

Udall said on Monday the American people "deserved to know who has access to the president, how much it's costing to protect him and whether the Trump Organization is benefiting from that protection". The Members of Congress requested that the GAO provide "recommendations necessary to ensure that the President and his staff avoid violating national security protocols in the future, and ensure that taxpayer funds are used appropriately when the president travels to his private club".

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Trump has spent half of his weekends since taking office at Mar-A-Lago.

The Democrats also questioned whether the Trump Organization, which owns the Mar-a-Lago property, was charging the government "fair and appropriate" rates for the use of the property at the service of the president. Based on a GAO estimate of a weekend trip by President Obama, the estimated price tag for taxpayers is $3.6 million per trip. NPR's Greg Allen reports.

Democrats reached out to the Government Accountability Office following reports that President Trump openly discussed North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the resort on February 11.

The GAO investigation won't start for a "few months", says Reuters, so that will leave the president time to take many more jaunts down to Mar-a-Lago.

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The GAO said in a letter it plans to examine how classified information and the president's communications are kept under wraps while he's on the go. Last week, Democrats in the Senate introduced a bill that would call on the president to release logs of visitors to the White House and his properties, including Mar a Lago, information that's now not available.

"That is a vast reach", Spicer told one reporter, who cast the question of the cost of the Mar-a-Lago visits, versus proposed cuts in the federal budget.

Along with security, Democrats are also concerned about another issue related to the president's visits, the cost.

The watchdog will also see if Trump is paying profits for the trips to the U.S. Treasury.

. The Constitution forbids US officials, including the president, from receiving any payments from foreign governments.

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