Donald Trump likes to call his Mar-a-Lago golf resort the “Winter White House” but there may be more presidential puttings than meetings occurring at the get-away destination. It’s difficult to know for certain because the private club can keep the president’s activities hidden from the public — and the media.
This weekend in particular — the president’s fifth trip to Mar-a-Lago in eight weeks in the White House — Trump may have been more embroiled with his nine-iron than the troubles of the nation. He cancelled a touted meeting Friday night with “business leaders and doctors” to discuss veterans’ health care, and his aides were circumspect about how he spent his time Saturday.
He spent over four hours on Saturday at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, where he was supposed to be “having meetings and phone calls,” according to his staff, CBS reported.
But the president posed for a photo on Twitter (including with former Mitt Romney aide Peter Flaherty) in the clubhouse posted by pal Chris Ruddy, who runs the conservative news site Newsmax. Trump was wearing a golf glove. An aide, asked about the photo, then conceded that the president may have “hit a few balls.”
Trump returned to Mar-a-Lago to have dinner with Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter.
In a strange scene at the White House on Friday concerning the meeting that was later cancelled, Trump boasted about it and turned to Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, asking him if he was coming to Mar-a-Lago. When Shulkin shook his head no, Trump added: “You heard about it, right? It’s going to be great — all about the VA.”
Trump pointed out that the meeting would be at Mar-a-Lago, which “we call affectionately the Southern White House. Seems to be the most convenient location,” he added. “Everybody always wants to go to the Southern White House.”
The name change from “Winter White House” was apparently a signal that Trump intends to continue to make frequent trips to the resort long after the winter.
The trips are particularly striking because of how Trump bashed Barack Obama for taking golf trips.
“I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done,” Trump said in 2015. “I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off.”
Trump’s frequent golf jaunts are becoming enormously expensive. Politico has estimated that each trip to Mar-a-Lago costs taxpayers at least $3 million (protecting wife Melania and son Baron back in New York has been estimated to cost an additional $1 million a day).
At those Mar-a-Lago prices so far, The Washington Post notes that Trump could fund the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness for nearly four years if he had skipped the resort trips. But the newspaper also makes the case that estimating accurate costs is challenging.
Palm Beach officials on Friday told CNN they want the Secret Service or Trump himself to help the county pay for police overtime spent to help protect the president. The sheriff’s department estimates that it costs about $60,000 in law enforcement overtime every day Trump spends in Florida, and officials expect the costs to top $1 million this weekend.
Palm Beach Mayor Paulette Burdick said the county may have to hike taxes to cover the costs. “It means the local taxpayers will have to bear the added burden of being part of the security for the president,” she told CNN.
The latest security concern occurred Friday at Mar-a-Lago when a teen crashed a car he was driving into a fence at Mar-a-Lago, NBC reported. He was given a traffic ticket and ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation.