Treasury secretary wants wants to postpone public accounting until after the November election
The Trump administration is seeking to block Democratic efforts to release Donald Trumps Florida-hopping Secret Service costs until after Novembers presidential election, according to several reports.
The dispute over the cost to taxpayers of protecting the president and his adult children comes amid administration efforts to move the service from the Department of Homeland Security to the Treasury, its home until 2003.
Under the draft legislation, the Secret Service would be required to disclose the costs within 120 days of the legislation becoming law. But the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, wants to delay any public accounting until after the election.
A Treasury official told the Washington Post the department would decline to comment on individual aspects of the negotiations.
Trumps travel and security expenses have long been a source of criticism by Democrats, who argue that Trumps extended working-vacations at his resorts in Florida and New Jersey should be in the public record.
Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has made more than 50 visits to his properties outside Washington, despite promising to rarely leave the White House and avoid the travel costs of his predecessor, which were estimated at $96m over eight years.
In March 2017, the agency asked Congress for an extra $60m to cover the additional costs of Trump and his family over the following year, but as the familys travel schedule has expanded, insight into costs is fragmentary at best.
A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), put Trumps travel expenses at $13.6m for four trips to his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago club through February and March 2017.
This estimate consisted of approximately $10.6m for operating costs of government aircraft and boats and $3m for temporary duty costs of government personnel supporting the Presidents travel, including transportation, lodging, and meals and incidental expenses, the report found.
At that pace of spending, Trumps travel costs would have exceeded Obamas total before the end of his first year in the White House.
But Trump has made 22 more trips to Mar-a-Lago, at an estimated cost of $28m to the Secret Service alone. The agency has said it has spent $588,000 since 2017 on golf carts to escort him during golf trips; at least $250,000 was charged to Secret Service credit cards over the first five months of his term according to the watchdog group Property of the People.
Trumps adult sons Eric and Don Jr have made frequent overseas trips to countries including Ireland, Scotland, Dubai and India. A visit to Uruguay by Eric Trump in 2017 cost taxpayers $97,000.
But according to the governments accounting office, the Secret Service has failed to provided cost reports for 2016 or 2017 ,and delayed submitting reports for the last two years, citing staff changes. An agency spokesperson told the Washington Post it does not discuss protective means and methods.
That has angered Democratic lawmakers now pushing for greater disclosure as a condition of approving assigning the security agency to the treasury.
Secretary Mnuchin came to me last year with a proposal to move the Secret Service to the Treasury department, the California senator Dianne Feinstein said last year.
As part of that effort, I proposed that the cost of presidential travel be included for greater transparency, accountability and oversight associated with protection during travel of presidents and their families.
But in a letter to the Senate judiciary committee late last year, Mnuchin said he opposed the reporting requirement, arguing that expense records should not be released until December 2020 at the earliest.
Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/09/steven-mnuchin-democrats-trump-secret-service-spending