Former president Donald Trump charged the Secret Service more than $40,000 this spring for rooms that Trump’s own protective detail used while guarding him at his Mar-a-Lago Club, according to federal spending records.
The records show that Trump’s club charged the Secret Service $396.15 every night starting Jan. 20, the day he left the White House and moved full time into his Palm Beach, Fla., club.
Those charges, ultimately paid by taxpayers, continued until at least April 30, the spending records show, for a total of $40,011.15. The charges were for a single room used as a workspace by Secret Service agents, according to one person familiar with the payments.
The Secret Service released spending records up to April 30. Trump stayed at Mar-a-Lago more than a week beyond that before moving to his Bedminster, N.J., club for the summer. It was unclear whether he continued to charge the Secret Service into May.
Records documenting the charges were released by the Secret Service in response to a public-records request from The Washington Post. They are the first evidence that Trump has continued a controversial and lucrative practice – charging rent to his own protectors – into his post-presidency.
While he was president, Trump’s properties charged the U.S. government more than $2.5 million, often so that Secret Service agents could use rooms near him.
The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment. Trump’s post-presidential office and the Secret Service both declined to comment.
The rate Trump billed the Secret Service at his Florida resort is the same as the $396.15-per-room rate he charged as president.
Agents this spring rented fewer rooms at a time than they had when Trump visited Mar-a-Lago as president; back then, records show, they rented four or five rooms at the club for every night Trump was there. But costs for the single room in recent months added up because Trump was at Mar-a-Lago every night, not just on weekends and vacations. The end result: The Secret Service paid Mar-a-Lago nearly as much in the spring of 2021 as it had during comparable periods in 2018 or 2019.
Trump’s decision to charge the Secret Service rent appears unusual – both for a sitting president and now for a former one.
Former presidents get Secret Service protection for life. But last year The Washington Post spoke to historians and representatives for recent presidents, and could not find another example of a president charging the Secret Service rent on this scale.
The closest parallel to Trump was the man who succeeded him: Joe Biden. While he was protected as vice president, Biden charged the Secret Service $2,200 per month to use a cottage on his property in Delaware. In total, Biden received $171,600 between 2011 and 2017.
Biden has not charged the Secret Service rent since becoming president in January, a White House spokesman said.
Historians said they were surprised Trump was still charging the Secret Service, considering that ex-presidents are entitled to an array of other taxpayer-funded benefits, including paid staff and a $219,000-per-year pension.
Trump, by his own account, is a billionaire. On his personal blog this week, he celebrated the $1.2 billion refinancing of a San Francisco office building in which Trump’s company owns a 30% share. That deal could bring Trump’s company a massive payout.
“It’s tacky,” Jeffrey A. Engel, the director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, said of Trump’s new charges. “Just because you can make a buck doesn’t mean you should make a buck. And especially when you have a situation where you’re an ex-president. You’re not going to starve.”
Trump,like other past presidents, is entitled to taxpayer funding for office space. A General Services Administration representative said this month that the government had not paid Mar-a-Lago any rent for Trump’s office space there. “There is no agreement to pay rent at Mar-a-Lago for any space the former president is using at the club,” the representative said.
Most Secret Service agents who guard Trump at Mar-a-Lago stay elsewhere. But security experts say that the agency still needs one or more spaces near the protectee for meetings, breaks, communications equipment and supervisors. At Mar-a-Lago, that means renting from Trump.
Since fall 2017, Mar-a-Lago has charged the agency the same rate of $396.15 per night. On its invoices to the Secret Service, Mar-a-Lago wrote that this rate was “billed at cost.” The Trump Organization has not explained how it chose that rate, down to the penny.
The figure is far above the $205 spending limit that has applied to most government employees looking for rooms in Palm Beach County this spring. The Secret Service is allowed to spend more than the limit if its protective mission requires.
Trump is expected to remain at Bedminster for most of the summer, following his seasonal pattern. While Trump was president, the Bedminster club also charged the Secret Service for a four-room cottage used by the agents guarding Trump. The rate there was $567 per night.
It is unclear whether those charges have resumed, now that Trump has returned. Both the Secret Service and the Trump Organization declined to say.