Trump's trademark overspending hits the American people where it hurts: their pocketbooks.
Donald Trump has made billing taxpayers for his personal expenses a habit since taking office.
Last week, the U.S. Justice Department moved to replace Trump's private legal team with government attorneys in his defamation battle with former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll — a decision that shifts the financial burden back onto the American taxpayer.
In June 2019, Carroll accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan in the late '90s. In response, Trump claimed that Carroll was lying, "not (his) type," and said he'd never met her — despite being photographed with her in 1987.
Making taxpayers foot the bill for Trump's protracted legal dispute is a questionable move. The Justice Department claims it is allowed to move the defense back under its purview — and onto the taxpayers — because Trump was "acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States at the time of the incidents out of which the Plaintiff's defamation claim arose."
Experts like CNN legal analyst Elie Honig have specifically asked "how the DOJ can argue with a straight face that it is somehow within the official duties of the President to deny a claim that he committed sexual assault years before he took office."
"Even in today's world," said Carroll's lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, the Justice Department's argument "is shocking."
But it's hardly the first time Trump has asked the public to pay for his personal expenses.
Here are 11 other times the Trump administration spent taxpayer funds in questionable fashion.
1. Government employees hosted in Trump hotels
In late 2019, Eric Trump commented in a Yahoo Finance interview, "If my father travels, (his security entourage) stay at our properties for free, meaning like, cost for housekeeping." But in February, an investigation by the Washington Post revealed that the Trump Organization had reportedly charged American taxpayers up to $650 a night, dozens of times a year, for Secret Service members to stay at Trump hotels — and $17,000 a month for them to stay at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, has disclosed that during Trump's second year in office, 33 political events took place at Trump properties — 13 attended by Trump himself.
2. Promoting Trump's business interests abroad
Last year, Vice President Mike Pence stayed at a Trump resort in Ireland during an official visit — at Trump's request — drawing backlash and complaints that he was enriching Trump on the American taxpayers' dime. The trip cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars on limo service fees alone, according to CREW.
Pence later defended the decision, calling it a "logical" choice due to weeks-worth of work that had already been done to secure the property. He dismissed any criticism as "political attacks by Democrats."
In a 2019 letter to the White House and Trump Organization, the late congressman Elijah Cummings, then chairman of the Oversight and Reform committee, slammed the move, writing that "the committee does not believe that U.S. taxpayer funds should be used to personally enrich President Trump, his family, and his companies."
3. Paying for his family's business trips
In January 2017, Eric Trump traveled to Uruguay for a Trump Organization promotional trip, with taxpayers funding nearly $100,000 in hotel rooms for security and embassy staff. According to documents released by CREW, Eric and his elder brother Donald Trump Jr., also met with a business partner at a Dubai golf resort in February 2017, with a side trip to the Maldives — to the additional tune of at more than $200,000 in travel costs.
All told, the Trump family has taken 12 times as many protected trips as the Obama family, each one racking up the bill for the American taxpayer.
4. Donald Trump Jr.'s hunting habit
In 2019, Trump Jr. took a hunting trip to Mongolia to shoot a rare Argali mountain sheep and meet the country's president — a trip that cost taxpayers approximately $75,000.
Trump's son was permitted, though not required, to bring along his security detail. While the trip was privately funded other than Trump Jr.'s entourage, the Secret Service cost alone was astonishing. "The trip is just one example of the expenses the Trump family is incurring with American taxpayers, and if just one of Don Jr.'s trophy hunting trips cost more than $75,000, it's staggering to think how high the total bill must be," said CREW.
5. Trump campaign rally expenses
Trump's travel to campaign rallies typically leaves taxpayers on the hook for cost of security detail as well as for taxpayer-funded trips on Air Force One — which involves Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Secret Service presence. Late 2018 operating figures for Air Force One from the Defense Department indicate the cost of air travel alone to Trump's midterm rallies was $17 million dollars, though it's unclear how much of that will ultimately be taxpayer-funded.
6. Pence's NFL walkout
In October 2017, Mike Pence attended an NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers, staging a dramatic walkout following the national anthem after a handful of players knelt to protest police brutality. Trump later tweeted that the walkout was done at his request.
According to Department of Homeland Security documents obtained by HuffPost, the stunt cost taxpayers approximately $325,000, both in travel expenses and in extra police and ambulance presence at the game.
7. Trump's many golf trips
In December 2011, Trump tweeted that former President Barack Obama "plays golf to escape work while America goes down the drain." Yet Trump's 2018 visit to his own Trump Turnberry golf resort in Scotland in 2018 cost taxpayers more than $1 million, according to an official DHS report, and that's just a drop in the bucket.
As of early 2020, Trump's nearly 140 golf trips — largely at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida — have set the American taxpayer back more than $133 million total.
8. Maintaining two residences
During the three months Melania and Barron Trump remained in New York before moving into the White House, they racked up an impressive bill at taxpayers' expense.
According to the Wall Street Journal, it cost more than $127,000 a day to maintain an NYPD presence at Trump Tower, where the two were residing at the time. The Secret Service also asked for an extra $60 million to protect Trump's wife and son. And with 21 flights back and forth on Air Force jets totaling $676,635, maintaining two residences was a costly choice by the Trumps.
9. Building the Trump International Hotel
While Trump was on the presidential campaign trail in 2015, the Washingtonian disclosed that the Trump Organization had received a Federal Historic Tax Credit in the form of a $40 million tax break on its renovations of Pennsylvania Avenue's Old Post Office — now Trump International Hotel — in Washington D.C.
According to the outlet, "The program allows developers to recoup 20 percent of their costs in fixing up certified historic structures. The Trump Organization started in June 2014 on a $200 million overhaul of the Old Post Office that will turn the 1899 Romanesque Revival tower into a 272-room luxury resort [...]."
According to Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development under Mayor Bill de Blasio, who spoke to the New York Times in 2016, "Donald Trump is probably worse than any other developer in his relentless pursuit of every single dime of taxpayer subsidies he can get his paws on."
10. Trump's White House renovations
Trump has spent more on White House renovations than any past president.
In his first days in the White House, Trump spent $1.75 million on lavish new decorations. Former president Barack Obama paid $1.5 million over a similar period of time.
According to Vanity Fair, "First Families are typically given $100,000 to use toward renovating the White House's private quarters as well as the Oval Office," with any costs above that expected to be paid out of pocket or through donations.
Obama, the outlet wrote, "declined the budget and paid for many of the renovations out of pocket."
It is unclear to what extent Trump paid for or reimbursed his pricey renovations.
In July 2020, the White House attached — to a coronavirus relief proposal — an additional request for $377 million in taxpayer funding for West Wing renovations. White House officials claimed the renovation needs included technology infrastructure and security upgrades.
11. Trump's Fourth of July celebration
Last summer, Trump revamped Washington's traditional annual July 4 celebration, which typically includes a concert by the National Symphony Orchestra on the lawn of the Capitol and fireworks over the National Mall. Trump decided to add a host of warplanes and tanks for entertainment and a partisan speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The celebration cost $13 million dollars, according to the the Government Accountability Office— twice as much as the Fourth of July bash under any previous White House occupant.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.