WASHINGTON (CN) — The U.S. Secret Service was billed $157,000 more than was previously known by President Donald Trump’s clubs and properties for nightly room rentals in the last three years, newly released documents show.
In total, the agency – and by extension, taxpayers – has been billed at least $628,000 by the properties since Trump took office in 2017.
Public Citizen, a government watchdog group, obtained the documents Thursday showing that the Secret Service, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, was billed a nightly rate of $396.15 per room for stays at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. That rate is listed as “room rate at cost,” a description applied to more than 150 rental feels listed throughout the documents.
The records were handed over to Public Citizen after three years of litigation. The group first filed its Freedom of Information Act request in January 2017, the month Trump was inaugurated.
The documents also list other charges billed to the Secret Service on behalf of the president’s businesses, including several monthly charges of $17,000 for the agency to rent a cottage near Trump’s National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, in 2017. The rental of the “Sarazen Cottage,” continued into summer 2018 and part of the following year, the records show – including on dates that Trump wasn’t on the property.
The Trump administration has not elaborated on its calculations of the charges, such as a $22,580 bill for 57 nights at Mar-a-Lago in 2017. However, according to other documents obtained by Public Citizen in 2018, rates above $300 per night are not the lowest at Trump properties.
Peter O’Rourke, former chief of staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs, is listed in separate documents obtained by the watchdog group as only paying $195 per night in April 2018. Secret Service agents also stayed at the property then and were charged $396.15 per night, the new records show.
The documents underscore concerns raised by Democrats that the charges could constitute a violation of anti-corruption rules by the president, illustrated in a September 2019 letter from the House Oversight Committee to Vice President Mike Pence’s office. The late Elijah Cummings, then chairman of the committee and Maryland Representative who died in October, wrote that Pence’s stay at Trump’s Doonbeg hotel in Ireland could have cost the American people an estimated $3.6 million dollars.
Pence is said to have stayed at the Dublin hotel at Trump’s direction – with the president reportedly saying at the time, “You should stay at my place” – but Trump later told reporters he “had no involvement” in the vice president’s lodging plans in Ireland.
Cummings’ letter to Pence’s office said the Doonbeg resort has been a problematic investment for the Trump Organization and has “failed to turn a profit in years.”
Other alleged violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses – which prohibit the president from receiving gifts from foreign or state governments or officials while in office without congressional consent – involve the Air Force.
The military branch said last year that it would review its layover guidelines after crew members stayed overnight in a Trump hotel in Scotland in March 2019 during a routine mission.
The Air Force said in a statement that it first looks to have crew members lodge on military bases, but sometimes they cannot due to capacity limits.
“In some cases, these lodging options are at locations which could be considered ‘higher-end’ hotels; existing policy is that as long as the location is suitable and within the allowable [Department of Defense] rate, aircrews may stay at a ‘higher end’ hotel,” it said.