WASHINGTON—House Democrats said a long-running probe found that properties controlled by former President
company charged the Secret Service excessive rates on dozens of government trips but that investigators lacked many details.
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman
(D., N.Y.) detailed the preliminary findings in a letter to Kimberly Cheatle, the director of the Secret Service. In the Oct. 17 letter, she wrote that the committee still hasn’t received complete information on nightly rates or the total amount the Secret Service paid to the Trump Organization, and asked the agency for more records related to all stays at properties owned, controlled or branded by the former president’s company.
The committee “has a strong interest in obtaining a complete accounting of federal government spending at Trump properties,” she wrote, saying the panel is examining potential legislation to prevent presidential self-dealing.
In a statement, Mr. Trump’s son
said that “any services rendered to the United States Secret Service or other government agencies at Trump-owned properties were at their request and were either provided at cost, heavily discounted or for free.” He added that the company “would have been substantially better off if hospitality services were sold to full-paying guests, however, the company did whatever it took to accommodate the agencies.”
With November elections approaching, the House Oversight Democrats have only months left to receive a formal response while they can be guaranteed to be in charge of the panel. Republicans are favored to win the midterm elections, and if that happens, they would be in charge of the committee during the new Congress, which begins next year. In addition, Ms. Maloney lost her primary race and will exit Congress after this term.
The committee wrote to the Secret Service in February 2020 following a report in the Washington Post that Mr. Trump’s properties were charging the Secret Service exorbitant rates. It sent another letter reiterating its request in September 2021—after Mr. Trump had left office—and obtained records from the Secret Service reflecting the agency’s spending at Trump-owned properties in the U.S. from his inauguration in January 2017 through Sept. 15, 2021.
The documents it received, according to Ms. Maloney, show that the Trump Organization charged the Secret Service a nightly rate in excess of the government per diem at least 40 times over that period. In several instances, the rates were more than three times the per diem, she said. Records showed the Secret Service spent more than $1.4 million on lodging at Trump-owned properties in the U.S. over that period, she said.
But that total didn’t appear to the committee to cover all Secret Service payments to Trump properties, she said. For example, the records didn’t appear to include expenditures at Mar-a-Lago during four 2017 stays at the former president’s Florida residence that were the subject of a 2019 Government Accountability Office report. The records also didn’t include Secret Service payments to Trump properties outside the U.S.
In one instance in March 2017, the Trump Organization charged the Secret Service a nightly room rate of $1,160—nearly five times the then-government rate—for a stay at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., as part of the protective service’s obligatory work to protect Eric Trump. According to the letter, the younger Mr. Trump was in town at the time to promote a golf tournament at the Trump National Golf Club, located in nearby Virginia.
In a 2019 interview at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit, Eric Trump said that the government “saves a fortune” staying at Trump properties “because if they were to go to a hotel across the street, they’d be charging them $500 a night, whereas, you know we charge them, like $50,” Ms. Maloney noted in the letter. Eric Trump was responding to a question about Mr. Trump’s plans to host the G-7 summit at Trump National Doral Miami, a plan he later scrapped, citing scrutiny from Democrats and the media.
Multiple invoices for stays at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., each for almost $17,600, according to the letter, didn’t appear to be reflected in the agency’s spending records. The discrepancy was based on comparing the Secret Service’s spending records with separate invoices from the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster that the Secret Service also provided.
Ms. Maloney wrote that she wanted records through the present of all spending at Trump properties, including the total amount and nightly rates paid, along with all internal documents, memorandums and other records related to nightly rates in excess of the government per diem. She also asked the Secret Service to explain and identify any stays in which the Secret Service paid more than the per diem but didn’t formally identify a request for a lodging variance. She asked for the response by Oct. 31.
Write to Siobhan Hughes at [email protected]
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