In more evidence that Donald Trump has used the presidency to enrich himself and his businesses, a new report on Wednesday shows that Defense Department employees charged nearly $140,000 at Trump properties over the first eight months of his presidency.
According to CNN, “Charges on the department-issued Visa cards, which span from Honolulu to Washington, DC, are the most recent evidence that taxpayer money flows to Trump’s company, once again emboldening critics who say these payments violate ethical norms and possibly the US Constitution.”
More from the troubling report:
The CNN analysis found military personnel spent more than a third of the total amount, or $58,875.69, on lodging and food at what appears to be Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. Most of the expenses generally align with the 25 days the President spent at his Florida club from February to April.
Some of the costs coincide with an April 6, 2017, visit Trump made to the exclusive club. That evening, the President met with military leaders and ordered a missile strike on Syria, an attack Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross later joked was “in lieu of after-dinner entertainment.” Two identical food charges for $89.88 appear on Defense Department cards the day after the strikes. The records also show a total of $12,339.60 billed for lodging on the same day the President ended his four-day visit.
Defense Department Visa transactions also appear for other Trump-owned properties, including $9,618.78 at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club just after he spent four days there in early May.
Some of the charges CNN reviewed do not overlap with presidential trips, including 113 at the Trump International Las Vegas Hotel totaling $35,652.44. Trump owns that hotel, and licenses his name for others including one in Panama City where $17,102.55 was charged. The hotel’s owners have since removed his name from the property.
As the report also notes, “Some critics say the payments may violate a provision of the Constitution known as the domestic emoluments clause.” The president is already facing legal challenges as a result.
Trump officials have repeatedly been caught enriching themselves at taxpayers’ expense
While it’s troubling that tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars are flowing into Trump’s properties, it’s not at all surprising. Trump and his high-level staff have repeatedly been caught using public funds to enrich themselves.
As I wrote last fall, Trump has essentially bankrupted the U.S. Secret Service because of his frequent travels to his lavish properties, especially the Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. That money is essentially going directly from taxpayers to Trump’s pockets.
Other administration officials, from ex-HHS Secretary Tom Price to current Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, have used public dollars to fund expensive flights on private jets.
In recent weeks, HUD Secretary Ben Carson was busted for using the agency’s funds to buy a $31,000 dining room set – all while HUD was slashing funding for programs that benefited the poor.
The longer this administration is in the White House, the more clear it is that they see their work in government as a way to enrich themselves, not improve the lives of the American people.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.