One of the president's latest attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia is to focus on the dollars and cents. Trump tweeted that Mueller's Russia investigation costs are going up fast. But it turns out, not nearly as fast as his trips to Mar-A-Lago.
"A.P. has just reported that the Russian Hoax Investigation has now cost our government over $17 million, and going up fast. No Collusion, except by the Democrats!" Trump tweeted on Friday. But according to estimates made by D.C. reporters, each time Trump goes to Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, it costs taxpayers between $1 million and $3 million or more.
That means his 17 trips there — totaling at least over $17 million and more — already cost U.S. taxpayers more than the Mueller investigation has. Trump has spent much of his presidency at the "Winter White House," and that's not counting separate trips made by the first lady or other members of his immediate family. This cost comparison was first reported by The Washington Post.
Last year alone, Trump's airfare for Mar-a-Lago trips ran upward of $6.6 million — not to mention all the other associated costs, like Secret Service protection.
The White House has said the president is worth those costs, and has tried to keep the media from framing the trips as vacations. "The bottom line is, the president is the president no matter where he goes and he doesn't get to control the level of costs and security that may come along with that," Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in May 2017.
Trump's trips are not just to Mar-a-Lago. He has spent weekends at various other Trump properties, such as his golf club in New Jersey, just outside of New York City. That's where he spent weekends much of last summer.
Trump's total travel costs have not been released by the government agency normally tasked with doing so, the Government Accountability Office, because they don't have the numbers they need. The office has asked White House lawyers for information about the president's trips to come up with the official estimate, but it has been rebuffed.
“I understand that attorneys from your office and the National Security Council (NSC) will not respond to inquiries or otherwise engage with GAO staff during the course of our reviews,” a letter from GAO general counsel Thomas Armstrong to White House counsel Donald McGahn read. “This approach represents a clear departure from past practice.”
Obama's total travel costs for his eight years in office is estimated at $114 million. That may seem high, but Trump's costs are expected to overtake it. Obama also did save taxpayers money with his lack of special counsel investigations.
Media outlets like Town & Country magazine have detailed the president's trips to Mar-a-Lago. The magazine summarizes posts by local media like The Palm Beach Post which notes details like whether or not the first lady arrived with the president or traveled separately — something that would potentially add further to the costs.
Often the president travels with much of his staff and advisers. In his most recent visit, it was reported he was joined by chief of staff John Kelly, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller.
That would lend credence to the argument made by the White House that the trips are not vacations but working trips. “He is not vacationing when he goes to Mar-a-Lago. The president works nonstop every day of the week, no matter where he is," a White House spokesperson said in February.
Working from Mar-a-Lago is just more expensive.