President Donald Trump’s frequent visits to Mar-a-Lago are more than just a brazen conflict of interest or a crimp on the economy of Palm Beach, Florida. They are also a potentially massive security risk.
There are no guest lists, weapons screenings, bomb-sniffing dogs or background checks for guests at Mar-a-Lago during Trump’s stays at his resort like there are at the White House, according to a recent report by Politico. Although some Democratic lawmakers want to change that, former Secret Service agent Jonathan Wackrow told Politico that “you can posture all day long, but the service can’t produce something that doesn’t exist,” describing efforts to change how things proceed at Mar-a-Lago as not “realistic.”
He added, “it’s a misapplication of resources.”
On Friday the Government Accountability Office agreed to perform an inquiry into the potential costs of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago excursions after being urged in a letter by Udall, his fellow Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland. Another compelling factor behind their letter was President Trump’s decision to handle a major international crisis in full view of his guests at the Mar-a-Lago resort. The inquiry will focus on the protection of classified information and secure communications, the types of screenings used for guests and visitors at Mar-a-Lago, making sure the fees charged to taxpayers for Trump’s trips are “fair and reasonable,” and looking into whether the Treasury Department has received any payments as a result of profits from the president’s properties.
One unexpected cost that is known for sure: The Secret Service had to request a $26.8 million increase in its budget for the 2018 fiscal year due to the need to protect First Lady Melania Trump as she and Trump’s son Barron stay in Trump Tower. That money is also going to protect other members of the Trump family as they travel the world on business trips.