Watchdog: 4 Mar-a-Lago trips in 2017 cost taxpayers $14m

FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2018 photo, a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat passes President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. A government watchdog says President Donald Trump’s four trips to Mar-a-Lago in early 2017 cost taxpayers nearly $14 million. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump's four trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort in early 2017 cost taxpayers nearly $14 million, a watchdog report Tuesday said.

The Government Accountability Office said travel and accommodations, Secret Service expenses, deployment of bomb-sniffing dogs and other costs for the trips between February 3 and March 5 in 2017 tallied to $13.6 million. About $60,000 of the tab went directly to Mar-a-Lago.

The GAO report provides one of the clearest pictures yet of the costs of the president's travel, and how much of that money goes back to his own properties.

The nonpartisan research group for Congress also found that Secret Service costs for three trips abroad by Trump's two adult sons and their spouses in early 2017 ran to $396,000.

Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the trips to Mar-a-Lago themselves are the real problem, not just the direct spending there.

"President Trump's failure to divest from his properties has created a situation in which he benefits from government spending whenever he makes a promotional appearance at one of those properties," Bookbinder said in an emailed comment. "This is not a presidential vacation, but an official trip that provides invaluable free publicity to his business."

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

During one of Trump's trips to Mar-a-Lago in early 2017, the president played host to visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The GAO report was requested by Democratic members of Congress, including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings.

The tally does not include expenses that are classified or salaries and benefits of U.S. government employees traveling with the president. The GAO said the latter would have been incurred if the president had not traveled.

The GAO also didn't include costs incurred by officials of the Executive Office of the President because the White House did not respond to a request for the data.

Trump spent a total of 49 days at Mar-a-Lago in 2017 and 29 days in 2018, according CREW.

In January 2017, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump and their wives traveled to the United Arab Emirates. Eric Trump separately went to Uruguay that same month, then to the Dominican Republic the next month.

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