Senator Chuck Schumer says costs of guarding Trump Tower may add up to $183m a year, while Palm Beach officials complain about cost of Mar-a-Lago visits
New York Senator Chuck Schumer has ramped up pressure on Donald Trump and the federal government to accept the mounting costs of protecting the president, the first family and their extended entourage.
Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, inserted himself into the debate on Sunday, saying it costs $500,000 per day for nearly 200 police officers to protect Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which houses the Trump family business headquarters and serves as the home of the first lady, Melania Trump, and the couple’s son, Barron. The senator estimated the cost could rise to as much as $183m annually.
At current estimates, even a four-year Trump administration could be heading for a billion dollars in taxpayer-borne costs – an eight-fold increase of the $97m Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, estimates it cost to protect Barack Obama over the two terms of his administration.
The estimated costs of guarding Trump Tower have varied from $1m a day (during daily protests before the inauguration) to around $100,000 for the first lady and Barron, 10, who are staying in New York until at least the end of the school year.
Schumer urged Trump to include the costs in the federal budget, noting that New York City has only been reimbursed $7m of $35m requested for the cost of protecting the tower for the period between election day and the Inauguration.
“It’s simply unfair to have New York City taxpayers alone bear the burden of NYPD protection at Trump Tower. President Trump: this is your protection, so I challenge you to put these costs in your upcoming federal budget and make a commitment to reimburse New York City,” Schumer said during a press briefing at his Manhattan office.
In contrast, the cost of protecting former president Obama during his four trips to the city last year came to just $4.1m. The costs of protecting the Obama family home in Chicago over the same pre-inauguration period in his presidency was estimated at $2.2m.
Senator Schumer’s comments come as the full costs of protecting the first family in the lifestyle that it is accustomed are only just starting to be understood.
Last week, officials in Palm Beach said the cost of hosting the president at his Mar-a-Lago estate amounted to $60,000 a day for police overtime.
Trump stayed at Mar-a-Lago for nearly 16 days, from 16 December to 1 January as president-elect, and has visited his private resort home on three consecutive weekends this month, driving up the costs to an estimated half-million dollars.
Kirk Blouin, the town’s director of public safety, told the Sun-Sentinel that the municipality was “overwhelmed”.
Trump’s frequent trips to his self-styled Winter White House in Florida are burdening local businesses. While Air Force One lands at Palm Beach, Lantana, the small airport near Mar-a-Lago, is closed for business during the president’s trips. A banner-flying company operating from there told the Chicago Tribune it has lost more than $40,000 in contracts.
Schumer said he would cooperate with Palm Peach counties in trying to claw back the costs, adding that the cost of protecting the president in Florida was “an additional and unusual expense”.
“We have not had a president with an auxiliary White House,” he added.
Using figures based on a government report analyzing White House travel, the Washington Post estimated Trump’s Florida trips have cost the federal government about $10m since his inauguration. That includes money for Coast Guard units to patrol the exposed shoreline and other military and security expenses.
Trump administration officials have argued that the president’s weekend jaunts are correctly described as working weekends: this includes hosting Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, over the weekend of 10 February and interviewing potential national security adviser picks over this past weekend.
“He is not vacationing when he goes to Mar-a-Lago,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told The Washington Post last week. “The president works nonstop every day of the week, no matter where he is.”
However, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was forced to concede that Trump had indeed played a full round of golf on Sunday, not just a “couple of holes” as had been initially stated.
The golf website No Laying Up reported that one of his companions, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, had unintentionally outed the President.
“He probably shot around 80,” McIlroy told the website. “He’s a decent player for a guy in his 70’s!”
It is now estimated that Trump has played golf six times in his first 32 days in office.
“The president is going to have to be sensitive to the cost of travelling around,” said Judicial Watch CEO Tom Fitton, who recommends the president use the helicopter-accessible presidential retreat of Camp David in Maryland. “I appreciate he wants to go home to Mar-a-Lago every weekend but it is costly to do so and the work he does there he can do elsewhere.”
The watchdog group estimates Air Force One costs around $180,000 an hour to operate. Additionally, Trump’s trips to Florida require the costs of his Secret Service detail, the cost of a cargo plane to bring his cars down there as well as putting other assets in places.
“It adds up to a tremendous cost,” said Fitton.
Additional costs are also mounting for protecting the Trump children in their daily lives and on their frequent business trips abroad.
Last week, Eric Trump and his brother, Donald Trump Jr, traveled to Dubai to open a Trump-branded golf course. Estimates compiled by the Washington Post, put the cost of Secret Service hotel bills alone in excess of $16,000. Meanwhile, Eric Trump’s trip to visit a Trump-brand condo tower in Uruguay cost an estimated $100,000 in hotel bills.
“The presidency is too big and costs too much and we’re seeing that front and center with President Trump,” said Fitton. “The president should look into saving money on White House operations, and he’s going to have to be sensitive to the cost of travelling around.”
Judicial Watch filed several freedom of information requests to obtain records of Obama travel spending. This includes a $1,012,367.76 trip to give a global warming speech in the Everglades in 2015; a fundraising trip to San Diego in the same year costing $2,181,655.99; and a February 2016 Aspen skiing trip for Michelle Obama and her daughters, which cost taxpayers a total of $222,875.58.
- This article was amended on 20 February 2017 to correct the location of Camp David. It is in Maryland, not Virginia.