President Trump doesn't have much restraint when it comes to visiting his personal properties on taxpayers' dime. When Trump arrives Friday at Mar-a-Lago, his private golf club on Florida's Atlantic coast, it will be well over the 100th time Trump's visited one of his properties. For the statistically inclined, that means he spent roughly 32 percent of his presidency to date at Trump-owned getaways.
This amount of travel would make any POTUS the target of criticism from their opponents, especially in this hyper-partisan era. But Trump made himself uniquely ripe for opprobrium after blasting President Obama for his supposed excess quantity of vacation/golf time. Trump tweeted no less than 27 times about Obama golfing despite "all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S." He tweeted at least 10 times to disparage Obama on the issue of his vacation taking, writing in 2011 "@BarackObama played golf yesterday. Now he heads to a 10 day vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Nice work ethic."
At this point in his presidency, Trump has traveled more than any other modern president. And though his defenders would no doubt argue that not all his travels were of a leisurely variety (Trump has hosted world leaders and "worked" while away from the White House), some see the nature of Trump's business ties with his vacation destinations as problematic in their own right.
At issue specifically is how Trump’s travel to and presence at his own private clubs provides financial benefits to them — and by extension, him too. During the Republican primary campaign, Trump made money off his campaign in a variety of ways. One of them was housing his campaign headquarters in Trump Tower and charging his campaign the rent, which he then paid through donor donations.
The Washington Post reported that in May of 2016 alone, Trump’s campaign had spent $400,000 staying at Mar-A-Lago. Money flowed from Trump’s campaign straight into Trump’s private business coffers.
Some complain there is a similar trend in all of Trump’s presidential travels to his Palm Beach resort. At the start of the year, following Trump's election, membership fees at Mar-A-Lago doubled, from $100,000 a year to $200,000. Unnamed sources told CNBC that the club had been considering an increase for some time, but others suspected the rate jump had more to do with Trump winning the election.
"This type of naked profiteering off of a government office is what I would expect from King Louis XVI or his modern kleptocratic equivalents, not an American president," Norm Eisen, a former ethics lawyer for the Obama administration, said of Mar-A-Lago's hiked fees.
Besides the potential business boon to his brand, Trump's copious travels have cost the nation's taxpayers a pretty penny. While it's all but impossible to get an exact dollar amount of the true costs incurred when presidents leave the White House, there are some organizations that have offered estimates of Trump's travel bill to the American people.
Based on the calculation that a 4-day vacation for the Obama family to Palm Beach cost roughly $3.6 million, the liberal Center for American Progress estimates that a 3-day trip for Trump to Mar-A-Lago costs about the same. (There are some problems with making such an exact correlation, considering all the variables involved.)
But working with that baseline, the think tank put Trump's travel costs at $32 million as of August. Judicial Watch, a right-leaning organization, estimated that Obama's personal travel cost taxpayers $100 million over his eight years in office.
If these estimates are accurate, that would put Trump on track to exceed Obama's travel costs before his first term is up.
And a final, surprising fact: the site Trump traveled to most often in 2017 wasn't even the famed Mar-A-Lago. It was his New Jersey golf club, Bedminster.