Whether it's a family vacation, Trump organization business trip, or diplomatic visit, pretty much every time a member of the Trump family travels, it's costing taxpayers something. This week, Quartz reported that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump's Dominican Republic vacation cost taxpayers over $58,000 in security detail expenses.
According to Dominican media, the Kushners spent a weekend in mid-August at the five-star luxury Amanera Resort on the north coast of the island. A room for two adults at Amanera costs upward of $1,600 per night. The White House confirmed to Quartz that the first daughter and her husband paid for their personal expenses on vacation, but that the government covered the costs of Secret Service security detail.
According to an NBC report, costs of a security detail can include hotel reservations, car rentals, and various other expenses necessary for funding a protection team. From federal financial disclosure documents, Quartz found that the State Department authorized over $32,000 for a "VIP visit" to Amanera a week before the Kushners' vacation, and another $26,280 for a "hotel reservation," apparently connected to the trip.
“The Kushners were on a personal trip and followed all ethics guidelines and rules for White House officials," a White House official said in a statement. "The only expenses incurred by the government were due to USSS protection, which they are required to have. They personally covered all other expenses incurred as related to the trip.”
By law, the Secret Service protects the president, vice president, and their immediate families, as well as former presidents, visiting heads of state, and major presidential and vice-presidential candidates. It's not unusual for them to tag along with the first family on vacation. During the Obama presidency, Secret Service similarly accompanied Michelle Obama and her daughters on a winter holiday to Aspen, for instance.
What is different is the price tag. Over Obama's eight years in office, his administration spent $97 million on vacation travel, according to Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog organization. By contrast, according to CNN, by the end of Trump's first 80 days in office, the administration had already spent $20 million on non-work related travel, including frequent weekend trips to the president's resorts in Florida and New Jersey. In fact, in September 2017, the Secret Service requested an extra $60 million in its budget for 2018, reporting they were running out of money to fund protection services for the Trump administration.
The Kushners' Caribbean vacation is also not the first time members of the first family have racked up a hefty bill for protection services. NBC's report from 2017 described federal expenditures of more than $53,000 for a Vancouver business trip for Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Tiffany Trump in February 2017. Another business trip to Uruguay early last year cost taxpayers almost $98,000 in Secret Service protection for Eric. And last year, a series of business trips for Eric and Don Jr. to Dubai and the Dominican Republic, where they were reportedly working on opening Trump resorts, came in at a nearly $250,000, according to Politico.
The Trump children are entitled to Secret Service protections, but ethics experts say that on this scale, increased transparency is what's important. "The big problem is we haven’t had necessary oversight of the unusually high expenses incurred by the Secret Service to support the security of Trump and his grown children, Virginia Canter, Chief Ethics Counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told Quartz.
This story has been updated with comment from the White House.