One week after launching his presidential campaign, in 2015, Donald Trump pledged to become a shut-in at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done,” the mogul said. “I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off. You don’t have time to take time off.”
During his first seven months in office, Trump has taken seven trips to his resort in Mar-a-Lago, Florida; five to his golf club in Bedminister, New Jersey; and one to Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Each of those Florida trips is estimated to have cost more than $3 million. The president’s near-weekly retreats to the Sunshine State last winter put him on pace to spend more on travel in his first year than Barack Obama had spent during two full terms.
Meanwhile, the Secret Service was tasked with protecting Trump’s large, globe-trotting family. At present, the agency is responsible for maintaining constant watch over an unprecedented 42 protectees — up from 31 under Obama.
And providing security for Eric, Don Jr., Ivanka, and Tiffany is far more exhausting — and expensive — than doing so for Malia and Sasha. As USA Today reports:
Earlier this year, Eric Trump’s business travel to Uruguay cost the Secret Service nearly $100,000 just for hotel rooms. Other trips included the United Kingdom and the Dominican Republic. In February, both sons and their security details traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the opening of new Trump hotel there, and to Dubai to officially open a Trump International Golf Club.
In March, security details accompanied part of the family, including Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner on a skiing vacation in Aspen, Colo. Even Tiffany Trump, the president’s younger daughter, took vacations with her boyfriend to international locales such as Germany and Hungary, which also require Secret Service protection.
Add to this the considerable costs of keeping Melania and Barron secure in the heart of New York City for much of this year; maintaining security at the Trump family’s various residences up and down the East Coast; and the myriad expenses inherent to hanging around a Trump luxury property (the Secret Service has racked up $60,000 in golf-cart bills at the president’s clubs), and you have a recipe for a budget crisis.
According to Secret Service director Randolph Alles, that crisis has already arrived. Alles told USA Today Monday that more than 1,000 of his agents have already hit the federal caps for yearly salary and overtime. Some veteran agents have already worked hundreds of overtime hours with no compensation.
The 2016 campaign was similarly taxing to the agency, with 1,400 agents collectively amassing thousands of overtime hours above compensation limits. Congress approved a measure to ensure that their labors didn’t go unrewarded. But this was a one-time fix, passed under the assumption that the agency’s burden was bound to let up considerably, once the election year was over.
That assumption has proven less than safe. And some fear that that same description might soon apply to those in the Secret Service’s care. Turnover at the agency has been understandably high — and its ability to recruit top talent has been hampered by all those punishing, uncompensated hours.
On Capitol Hill, there’s some bipartisan movement toward upping the Secret Service’s funding. But relief is unlikely to come before 150 foreign leaders converge on New York City next month for the United Nations General Assembly — an event that will require the Secret Service to operate at maximum vigilance, even as some 1,100 agents have already become ineligible for overtime pay.