House Democrats question Secret Service on payments to Trump properties

Members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday asked the Secret Service to disclose the scope of its payments to President TrumpDonald John TrumpFed saw risks to US economy fading before coronavirus spread quickened Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Britain announces immigration policy barring unskilled migrants MORE's company while protecting him as he spends time at his properties.

The request for documents and information came after The Washington Post reported last week that the Trump Organization has charged the Secret Service — and thereby taxpayers — for rooms used by agents at rates as high at $650 per night, despite claims that it only charges minimal fees.

In a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyHouse Oversight accuses Border Patrol of blocking investigation into secret Facebook group Lawmakers grill Census Bureau officials after report on cybersecurity issues Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierHouse passes bill paving way for ERA ratification Abortion wars flare up in Congress House Democrats question Secret Service on payments to Trump properties MORE (D-Calif.) asked for records of payments to Trump properties and any contracts between the Secret Service and the Trump Organization.

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“The payment of rates far above government rates and the Trump Administration’s lack of transparency raise serious concerns about the use of taxpayer dollars and raise questions about government spending at other Trump properties,” Maloney and Speier wrote in the letter. “These concerns are heightened since President Trump has spent a third of his presidency at his private clubs and hotels, and his Treasury Secretary has attempted to shield Secret Service expenses from public scrutiny.”

They pointed to comments last year from Eric TrumpEric Frederick TrumpHouse Democrats question Secret Service on payments to Trump properties Trump hotels charge Secret Service up to 0 per night while protecting him: report Beach Boys's Brian Wilson asks fans to boycott concert at hunting event featuring Donald Trump Jr. MORE, one of the president's sons who oversees the Trump Organization's daily operations, in an interview with Yahoo Finance that the Trump Organization offers the government steep discounts on its typical rates.

"So everywhere that he goes, if he stays at one of his places, the government actually spends, meaning it saves a fortune because if they were to go to a hotel across the street, they’d be charging them $500 a night, whereas, you know we charge them, like $50,” Eric Trump said.

But The Washington Post found that the Secret Service was charged up to $650 a night for rooms at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, as well as $17,000 a month to use a cottage at Trump's golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

The Secret Service was charged the $650 rate at Mar-a-Lago dozens of times in 2017 and $396.15 dozens of other times in 2018.

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A tally kept by The Washington Post shows that Trump has spent about a third of his presidency at his private properties.

It's unclear exactly how much money Trump's businesses have received from the federal government over the course of his presidency. 
 
The Post documented at least $471,000 of payments from the Secret Service to Trump's company, but the total is likely higher given that the available records are not comprehensive. 

A January 2019 report by the Government Accountability Office found that federal agencies spent about $13.6 million over four of Trump's trips to Mar-a-Lago between February and March 2017. That included $10.6 million for operating government aircraft and boats, as well as $3 million for personnel expenses like transportation, lodging and meals.

Maloney and Speier further noted that the Secret Service has not disclosed the full scope of its payments to Trump's businesses or the cost of travel to his properties by not regularly submitting semiannual reports on expenditures to protect the president. They said that the agency had only provided the three most recent reports and asked for an estimate of when it would submit the full set of reports documenting costs in the Trump presidency.

House Democrats last year attached amendments to annual government spending bills to ban the use of taxpayer funds at Trump's businesses, but their efforts were ultimately not included in the final version that became law.