President Trump has been claiming that his Ukraine extortion scheme was motivated by an earnest concern about corruption. The president and his allies say they are so outraged that Hunter Biden made money off his relationship to a sitting vice-president that they held up military aid to Ukraine, and are opening an investigation into the matter now, half a decade later. “I probably have a legal obligation, Mr. Attorney, to report corruption,” Trump told the country yesterday.
Meanwhile Trump is engaged in massive personal, ongoing corruption. The Washington Post has obtained Secret Service receipts from Trump’s properties. It reveals a massive profiteering scandal.
There are several important takeaways from the Post’s report. First, it shows that the Trump Organization has flat-out lied about the benefits it gets from the government business Trump throws its way. Last year, President Trump briefly sought to host a G-7 summit at one of his properties. Eric Trump, an independent entrepreneur who operates at arm’s length from his father’s administration, explained that the move would actually save taxpayers a lot of money. “If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free — meaning, like, cost for housekeeping,” he told Yahoo Finance. “If he stays at one of his places, the government actually … saves a fortune 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 bucks.”
This promise turns out not to be exactly, or even approximately, true. In fact, the Post finds that the Secret Service routinely paid $396 a night for rooms, and on many other occasions, paid $650 a night. So unless Eric Trump is such a terrible businessman he underestimates the cost at one of the properties he is running by thirteenfold, he (on behalf of his father’s business) is intentionally deceiving the public.
Second, the Trump Organization appears to be overcharging the Secret Service for the use of its cottage properties. At Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, the Secret Service paid $17,000 a month for a three-bedroom cottage. “Since fall 2017, there have been 100 rental listings for homes with three or more bedrooms in Bedminster, according to the website Zillow.com,” the Post finds. “None were anywhere near Trump’s rate; the average rental rate was $3,400, and the highest rent listed on Zillow was $8,500.”
So the Secret Service paid twice as much as the most expensive available listing in order to sleep on Trump’s golf property.
Third, the federal government is withholding documentation about just how much it is spending on Trump properties. The Post pieced together its story from fragmentary receipts it was able to obtain. But the Secret Service has failed to fully report its spending there. While it’s required to report such expenses to Congress twice a year, it’s only filed two of the six required reports. What’s more, the reports it did file omitted key details. And other mandated avenues for disclosure, like usaspending.gov, omit any detail about payments to Trump clubs.
And finally, as one might infer from the lack of disclosure, there may be a lot worse stuff out there. The Post notes NBC News asked the Department of Homeland Security for records of Trump’s spending at his Washington, D.C., Hotel. DHS said it spent $159,000 there in Trump’s first year. But the record did not include the rate the Secret Service paid on those stays, or explain why it is spending money to stay there at all, when Trump’s Washington residence — you know, the largeish white house on Pennsylvania Avenue, a few blocks from Trump’s hotel — is already financed by taxpayers?
It stands to reason that, if these questions had innocent answers, Trump would be disclosing more information. Trump claims he has a “legal obligation” to report corruption by people who happen to be running against him for president, but he is refusing even to comply with the current legal obligations to disclose his own profiteering at public expense.