White House: Trump needs luxury weekend vacations to stop North Korean nukes


The White House responded to the growing "Billionaire Air" luxury travel scandal in Trump's Cabinet by insisting Trump needs his own regular luxury travel to conduct international diplomacy.

Donald Trump needs his vacation trips to Trump-branded resorts to conduct international diplomacy, particularly to pressure North Korea and prevent it from going nuclear, according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Trump has spent 88 days of his 258 days in office at Trump properties, with 68 of those days spent at resorts with golf facilities. That is 34 percent of his entire presidency.

The majority of Trump's luxury days have been at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, but he has also recently been spending time at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump has also spent time at the Trump National golf course near Washington, as well as the Trump International Hotel, just a few blocks from the White House.

REPORTER: We now know that Secretary Price was essentially let go for his private jet travel, and we know, I think, in close proximity to his firing Secretary Perry took private jets, we know that Kellyanne Conway was along for one of Secretary Price's rides. At the same time, the president has now spent I think 17 weekends at taxpayer expense for the flights, either at Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster at the cost of $180,000 an hour for Air Force One, and he's going to take the plane to a fundraiser in North Carolina this weekend.

So here's the question: Is he not setting the tone that tells his cabinet members that this kind of misuse of taxpayer money, or overuse if you will, is OK? […]

SANDERS: The president certainly hasn't been there every weekend, and every weekend that he's traveling no matter where he is the president is working. He's hosted foreign leaders on several of those trips, which have led to some great accomplishments. They've led certainly, to putting further pressure – unprecedented pressure – on North Korea in large part because of the relationship development that's taken place at some of those weekends that you're attacking for.

This is a president that is committed to helping move his agenda forward and certainly I think that those weekends have been very successful in doing that.

Sanders claimed that despite the luxury accommodations, Trump's meetings with foreign officials at his resorts "has led to some great accomplishments" including "further pressure – unprecedented pressure on North Korea" as that nation continues to pursue its nuclear ambitions.

The defense came in response to concerns about the growing luxury travel scandal in his administration, also known as "Billionaire Air." Multiple Cabinet secretaries have been caught using private jets to crisscross the country on the taxpayers' dime.

Trump officials have racked up well over $1 million using this mode of travel, but the increasing criticism of this misuse of tax dollars led to the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Other officials, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and EPA chief Scott Pruitt, have refused to pay back the government for their travels and are under internal investigation.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao are also frequent fliers on luxury jets. Trump's top adviser, Kellyanne Conway, is under congressional scrutiny for her travel on private air as well.

Trump has been slammed for his weekend getaways since the beginning of his presidency, but he ignored America and set the mold for his inner circle to follow. Now, America is being stuck with the bill.

That Americans are being asked to believe Trump's regular weekend golf trips have anything to do with international diplomacy is utterly absurd.