Since leaving the White House in January of this year, former President Donald Trump has charged the Secret Service tens of thousands of dollars to stay at his resort in just a few months’ time — charges from which he profits.
The agency, which is tasked with protecting current and former presidents alike, has paid $40,011.15 from January 20 to April 30 to stay around the clock at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. That amounts to around $396 per night — payments that are being financed by U.S. taxpayers.
The move is considered unusual but not without precedent. President Joe Biden, who doesn’t currently charge the Secret Service rent, did so as vice president. But he did not charge the agency nearly as much as what Trump presently is billing them. From 2011 to 2017, Biden charged the Secret Service around $2,200 per month to stay at a cottage on his property in Delaware, or close to $75 per night.
Historians who spoke with The Washington Post on the matter said that Trump’s extensive charging of the agency is without precedent and noted that as a former president he receives a lifetime pension and other benefits that could easily pay for their stays. Trump has so far received $65,000 from his pension alone in his first few months out of office. His status as a supposed billionaire means he could also afford to waive rental fees toward the Secret Service.
“It’s tacky. Just because you can make a buck doesn’t mean you should make a buck,” Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, said to The Post. “And especially when you have a situation where you’re an ex-president. You’re not going to starve.”
The payments from the agency to Trump’s properties also violate the spirit of a promise he made while in office. The former president said he would donate all of his presidential salary back to the federal government — and it appears, on the surface, that he followed through on that promise. But if he continues to charge the Secret Service so exorbitantly, the agency’s Mar-A-Lago fees alone could easily exceed his salary donation in a decade.
Trump also profited greatly off of taxpayers during his presidency , taking more than 4,000 trips to his properties alone between the years of 2017 to 2019, making at least $1.6 billion from his businesses during his presidency, and charging the Secret Service to pay for their overnight stays during that time and beyond.
From when he was inaugurated up to September 2020, Trump made at least $1.1 million from the Secret Service alone.
Trump also charged the agency for days when neither he nor his family were even at their properties. As Trump and his family members made numerous visits to his resorts, it was necessary for the Secret Service to have a place to stay in order to be close by. But the former president would not cordon off a specific room for the agency when he went to stay, forcing agents to book a room full time at Mar-a-Lago even when no one that needed security detail was there just to ensure that they could get a room close to the president.
Trump’s visits to his properties weren’t the only way he benefited from the presidency. Foreign diplomats also reserved rooms at his properties, many of whom were seeking to gain his favor on a number of issues, earning him income he likely wouldn’t have received had he not been president. Ethics experts have questioned if Trump continuing to have a financial stake in his companies’ assets during his presidency violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause against receiving gifts.