Despite a court order to release a list of all of the visitors to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort since the Inauguration, the Justice Department’s list contained only 22 names, and was sent at the last minute on Friday afternoon, nearly half an hour after a deadline that had already been extended by a week.
“This was spitting in the eye of transparency. We will be fighting this in court,” the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which had filed the request for the list, said a statement. The names on the list that was released were all of staff members for Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who visited the Palm Beach “Winter White House” in February. “The remaining records that the Secret Service has processed in response to the Mar-a-Lago request contain, reflect, or otherwise relate to the President’s schedules,” the Justice Department claimed. Ethics experts worry that Trump’s frequent visits to his resort properties, like Mar-a-Lago, are obscuring interactions with lobbyists and other business interests that are not being disclosed to the public.
It’s hardly the first time that Trump’s extensive financial entanglements and business empire, from which he has refused to divest, have raised questions about ethical conflicts. In April, government officials said they would not be releasing visitor logs for the White House, breaking with a precedent set by the Obama administration. Coincidentally, the White House’s refusal Friday to comply with CREW’s FOIA request came on the same day The Washington Post released a report that the government was paying for guests to stay at the resort, to the tune of $1,092 for two nights, according to one receipt from a weekend in early March: “The receipt, which was obtained in recent days by the transparency advocacy group Property of the People and verified by The Post, offers one of the first concrete signs that Trump’s use of Mar-a-Lago as the “Winter White House” has resulted in taxpayer funds flowing directly into the coffers of his private business.”
CREW has pledged to continue pursuing the matter in court. Mar-a-Lago charges a $200,000 membership fee and is 99 per cent owned by Trump’s trust, from which he can withdraw at any time.
A newly revealed receipt shows that President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida charged taxpayers for a two-night stay that happened on March 3 and 4. The total bill: $1,092 dollars.
— Philip Bump (@pbump) September 15, 2017
Law Newz reached out to the Trump Organization and the White House for comment.
Not much is publicly known about the stay, or who it was for. The phrase “National Security Council” is typed on the upper lefthand corner. The Coast Guard provided the receipt to an advocacy group, Property of the People, after a Freedom of Information Act request, reports The Washington Post. The agency said it turned up the invoice when looking through their credit card payment records.