On Friday, President Donald Trump and his entourage flew for the third straight weekend to a working getaway at his oceanfront Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla.
On Saturday, Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., with their Secret Service details in tow, will be nearly 8,000 miles away in the United Arab Emirates, attending the grand opening of a Trump-brand golf resort.
Meanwhile, New York police will keep watch outside the Trump Tower in Manhattan, the chosen home of first lady Melania Trump and son Barron. And Bedminster, N.J., is preparing for the daunting prospect that the local Trump golf course will serve as a sort of northern White House.
Barely a month into the Trump presidency, the unusually elaborate lifestyle of America’s new first family is straining the Secret Service and security officials, stirring financial and logistical concerns in several local communities, and costing far beyond what has been typical for past presidents — a price tag that, based on past assessments of presidential travel and security costs, could balloon into the hundreds of millions of dollars over a four-year term.
Adding to the costs and complications is Trump’s inclination to conduct official business surrounded by crowds of people, such as his decision last weekend to host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a working dinner while Mar-a-Lago members dined nearby.
Trump’s three Mar-a-Lago trips since the inauguration have likely cost the treasury roughly $10 million, based on figures used in an October government report analyzing White House travel, including money for Coast Guard units to patrol the exposed shoreline and other military, security and staffing expenses.
Palm Beach County officials plan to ask Washington to reimburse tens of thousands of dollars a day in expenses for deputies handling added security and traffic issues around the cramped Florida island.
In New York, the city is paying $500,000 a day to guard Trump Tower, according to police estimates, and could reach $183 million a year.
“This is an expensive way to conduct business, and the president should recognize that,” said Tom Fitton, president of the conservative group Judicial Watch, which closely tracked President Barack Obama’s family vacation costs and said it intends to continue the effort for the Trump administration.
“The unique thing about President Trump is that he knows what it costs to run a plane,” Fitton added.
For Trump, the costs come with an additional perk: Some of the money flows into his own pocket. While Trump has removed himself from managing his company, he has refused to divest his ownership, meaning that he benefits from corporate successes such as government contracts.
The Defense Department and Secret Service, for instance, want to rent space in Trump Tower, where a floor can cost $1.5 million a year.
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said this week that Trump is always working, even when he’s left Washington behind.
“He is not vacationing when he goes to Mar-a-Lago,” Grisham said. “The president works nonstop every day … no matter where he is.”
Trumps’ frequent travel belies his repeated criticism of Obama as a “habitual vacationer” enjoying taxpayer-funded golf getaways.
Presidential families have for decades been guaranteed round-the-clock protection, no matter the expense or destination. Every presidency has brought new operational challenges, from George W. Bush’s frequent stays at his remote ranch in Texas to Obama’s annual trips to Martha’s Vineyard and his native state of Hawaii. Judicial Watch estimated Obama-related travel expenses totaled nearly $97 million over eight years.
Based on the first four weeks, Trump’s presidency is on track to cost hundreds of millions of dollars more.
The burden is especially acute for the Secret Service, the presidential protection force that has endured years of budget shortages, low morale and leadership shake-ups.
Agents are now tasked with guarding multiple homes and protecting Trump’s four adult children, including the globe-trotting sons running the family business and daughter Ivanka, whose family recently moved to Washington.
A Secret Service spokesman said the agency is equipped to handle the demands of a Trump presidency. “Every administration presents unique challenges to which the Secret Service has effectively adapted,” according to an agency statement.
Experts and local officials have pointed to a string of security and logistical concerns surrounding Mar-a-Lago, the estate Trump turned into a club in 1995.
Club members pay $200,000 to join — a fee that has doubled since his election — and $14,000 a year to belong, giving them access to the beach, tennis courts, a spa and, on occasional weekends, to the president.
Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., who represents Palm Beach, said that Mar-a-Lago is a poor choice for a president’s long-term home: an exposed oceanfront club on a narrow, busy island, where traffic problems were already routine.
“Mar-a-Lago is no Camp David,” Frankel said. “It’s not set up with the intention or the forethought of keeping the president safe.”
In advance of Trump’s Super Bowl weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago, the Secret Service paid for a bevy of security costs, including more than $12,000 for tents, portable toilets, light towers and golf carts, purchase orders show.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said that Trump’s 25 days in the county since the election have cost local taxpayers about $60,000 a day in overtime police pay.
Local officials said the U.S. Coast Guard has run round-the-clock shoreline patrols alongside Mar-a-Lago when the president is in town. A Coast Guard spokesman declined to share costs.
Overseas travel by Trump’s adult sons is adding to the burden on taxpayers.
Eric Trump and his security detail flew earlier this month to the Dominican Republic, where he met with developers proposing a Trump-brand luxury resort. Purchase orders showing government expenditures are not yet available, but records show that Secret Service officials traveled there in advance to scope out the area — staying at a five-star, oceanfront hotel at a cost of $5,470.
After this weekend’s trip to Dubai — during which early Secret Service hotel bills have already surpassed $16,000, records show — the Trump brothers will travel to Vancouver for the Feb. 28 grand opening of another Trump-brand skyscraper.
The best public estimate for the full cost of Trump’s presidential getaways may come from a U.S. Government Accountability Office report in October, which estimated that a four-day trip for Obama cost more than $3.6 million.
In November, when Trump spent a weekend at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, the 8,000-resident township received 48 hours’ notice demanding an all-hours security detail of six police officers from its 16-officer force.
“Bedminster is a small municipality with a small police force and a small budget,” Mayor Steven Parker wrote in a letter asking for federal help. “We don’t wish to burden our taxpayers disproportionately for these visits.”