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Posted: April 13, 2017

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago visits costing Florida thousands, documents show

Lynne Sladky/AP
President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. It’s widely estimated that each trip to the resort costs taxpayers $3 million, based on a government study of the cost of a 2013 trip to Florida by President Barack Obama. 

By Patrick Terpstra, Cox Washington Bureau and Cox Media Group Washington News Bureau

Florida Highway Patrol troopers are working overtime to protect President Donald Trump during his visits to Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Palm Beach.

Documents from the state of Florida provide new details on the cost and manpower required to assist the U.S. Secret Service when the president travels to his Florida country club.

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The Cox Media Group Washington News Bureau received the documents after filing an open records request with the state of Florida.

They show resources and staffing assigned by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles during two weekends in February when Trump stayed at Mar-a-Lago. During both weekends, 22 to 24 highway patrol officers worked the presidential detail at a rate of $35 an hour.

They clocked about two hours of overtime during the weekend of Feb. 10 through 12, when Trump hosted the Japanese prime minister.

>> Related: Trump returning to Mar-a-Lago for Easter after golfing there on Palm Sunday

FHP assigned up to 20 patrol cars each weekend to assist the Secret Service, the documents show. The daily cost of using the cars was just over $2,500 both weekends. The vehicles accompany the president's motorcade and are used to block roads near Mar-a-Lago

"The work is essential to national security and is requested by the United States Secret Service," said FHP Capt. Jeffrey Bissainthe, who confirmed the state pays all the costs to the highway patrol.

To avoid disrupting emergency response times, FHP draws personnel and vehicles from multiple counties, he said. 

On paper the expenses to the highway patrol added up to $3,575 for the first weekend and $5,786 for the second weekend, a small amount of money compared to the cost to Palm Beach County, where Mar-a-Lago is located.

Three members of Congress from Florida have asked the federal government to cover some of the $70,000 spent by the county's sheriff's and fire rescue departments each day the president is at Mar-a-Lago.

>> Related: Local tab for Trump’s Palm Beach visits closing in on $4 million

"If compensation is not assured of being forthcoming, we respectfully ask that you curtail your visits until such time as that matter is resolved favorably to our area," the representatives wrote to Trump in a March 23 letter.

Far greater mystery surrounds how much the federal government spends on transportation and security when he jets to his resort. A federal audit is now examining the costs to federal taxpayers, likely in the millions of dollars each weekend.

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Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, was among lawmakers who requested the review by the Government Accountability Office. The findings eventually will be available to the public.

"Taxpayers need to be clear as to what they are paying for," Cummings said. "This is kind of a unique situation and I'm very, very glad that it'll be looked into."

When asked if the expense of Trump's visits alarm him, Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said the cost of protecting the president is high no matter where he goes.

"We spend billions of dollars, actually, to protect the president, the families and the former presidents," he said.


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