Trump’s golf costs: $102 million and counting, with taxpayers picking up the tab

Donald Trump’s golf habit has already cost taxpayers at least $102 million in extra travel and security expenses, and next month will achieve a new milestone: a seven-figure presidential visit to another country so he can play at his own course.

U.S. taxpayers have spent $81 million for the president’s two dozen trips to Florida, according to a HuffPost analysis. They spent $17 million for his 15 trips to New Jersey, another $1 million so he could visit his resort in Los Angeles and at least $3 million for his two days in Scotland last summer ― $1.3 million of which went just for rental cars for the massive entourage that accompanies a president abroad.

And, notwithstanding Trump’s campaign promise that if elected he would not play golf at all, the White House has done preliminary work for Trump’s visit to his resort on the west coast of Ireland next month, according to Irish media and government sources, even though no official meeting with Irish leaders is planned in the capital, Dublin.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the White House announced that Trump would meet with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Shannon, just 30 miles by air from Trump’s golf resort in Doonbeg. It will be the first time Trump will visit a foreign country — with the staggering footprint of personnel and equipment that entails — for the main purpose of playing golf, though an official purpose was layered on after the fact.

“It’s obviously an incredible waste of money,” said Robert Weissman, president of the group Public Citizen. He then quipped: “Of course, the more time he spends golfing, the less time he spends governing, the better.”

The $102 million total to date spent on Trump’s presidential golfing represents 255 times the annual presidential salary he volunteered not to take. It is more than three times the cost of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that Trump continually complains about. It would fund for six years the Special Olympics program that Trump’s proposed budget had originally cut to save money.

While Republicans and Trump himself frequently criticized former President Barack Obama for his golf outings, Trump has spent more than twice as many days on the links, to date, as Obama did at the same point in his first term. And because Trump has insisted on dozens of trips to New Jersey and Florida to play at his resorts there, taxpayers are spending more than three times as much as they did for golf by the same point in Obama’s term. 

RELATED: Take a look at tax credits that could save you thousands: 

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31 tax credits and deductions that could save you thousands
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31 tax credits and deductions that could save you thousands

CHARITABLE DEDUCTIONS

That higher standard deduction makes it difficult to put together enough charitable deductions to make it worth itemizing. But if you do make large contributions, the threshold for deductions has jumped from 50 percent of adjusted gross income to 60 percent. While it's too late to make charitable donations for 2018, Kibler suggests tracking down receipts for donations made throughout the year, especially of cash or goods. Giving to eligible nonprofits, religious organizations, and government organizations (such as a school or public library) are deductible. "If you dropped off a bag of clothing at a local charity or gave them $5 at the cash register of your grocery store, make sure to track these contributions so you get the highest tax benefit possible," Kibler says.

STANDARD DEDUCTION

The passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017 almost doubled the standard deduction in 2018, pushing it from $9,350 for those filing as head of household to $18,000. But it also eliminated a bunch of helpful credits and deductions, including the personal exemption, which was $4,050 in 2017.

AMERICAN OPPORTUNITY TAX CREDIT

While tuition and fees deductions have dried up, the American Opportunity Tax Credit remains an option for eligible students — not grad students or long-term undergrads; it's available only during the first four years of college — with at least half-time status at an accredited school. It covers all of the first $2,000 in expenses and 25 percent of the next $2,000 (for a total $2,500). Schools will send students a 1098-T showing the amount paid last year in tuition and fees, but even expenses including books, supplies, and equipment such as computers can be offset. If the 1098-T does not max out the allowed credit, hold onto those receipts for supplies.

LIFETIME LEARNING CREDIT

This is the tax credit for the older student. Anyone taking classes at an eligible educational institution to acquire or improve job skills is eligible, even students taking just one class well after four years of undergraduate education. There are limits: Students are credited for only 20 percent of $10,000 in expenses ($2,000 is the maximum), though it can be applied to tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment. Individuals with an adjustable gross income between $56,000 and $66,000 (or between $112,000 but less than $132,000 for married filing jointly), will get a reduced amount. If it's over those thresholds, you can't claim the credit at all.

MORTGAGE INTEREST DEDUCTION

If you bought a home and had the mortgage in place before Dec. 15, 2017, you are still eligible to deduct interest on up to $1 million in mortgage debt. If you happened to sign on that date or later, though, your threshold drops to $750,000.

 

PREMIUM TAX CREDIT

If you or your family have health insurance from a government-run marketplace built through the Affordable Care Act, you may be eligible for this credit. Income is limited to up to $48,560 for individuals and up to $100,400 for a family of four, but the credit is usually equal to the cost of the second-lowest silver plan. Taxpayers can get this credit in advance to offset monthly premium bills, but claim too much and it must be paid back when filing. Those who get too little can claim the remainder when submitting returns.

DEPENDENT CARE CREDIT

If a child does not qualify for the Child Tax Credit because they are over 17, they may still be eligible for a $500 credit under new tax laws. The credit also applies for dependents who are elderly or disabled.

CHILD TAX CREDIT

Those who took advantage of the child tax credit in 2017 could claim a $1,000 credit on their income tax return for each child under 17 who qualified. In 2018, that doubles to $2,000 per qualifying child. The credit was also nonrefundable in previous years, but can now be refunded to 15 percent of earned income over $2,500, or up to $1,400. To qualify, children have to be 16 years or younger on the last day of 2018, be related to you, claimed as a dependent, be a documented U.S. citizen or resident, have lived with you for half of the tax year (though absences related to school, vacation, military service, and medical care are exempt) and must not provide more than half of his or her own support. The credit phases out for married taxpayers filing jointly with an income of $400,000 (or $200,000 for all other taxpayers).

EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT

The Earned Income Tax Credit is for low- and moderate-income taxpayers with "earned income" such as wages, salaries, or self-employment pay (but not Social Security, unemployment, or investment income). The limits are strict, ranging from $15,270 for a single person with no children to $54,884 for a married couple with three children or more. The credit's value is worth $519 to $6,431 depending on filing status and number of dependents, but requires recipients to have less than $3,500 in investment income for the year.

IRA DEDUCTION

Whether it's through an employer or private plan, a traditional Individual Retirement Arrangement funded with pretax money — unlike a post-tax Roth IRA — is deductible up to a certain limit. Even if an account is opened and funded in 2019, any contributions made before the tax-filing deadline can be credited to the previous year. For 2018, the maximum contribution is $5,500 (or $6,500 for those 50 or older). There are also deduction limitations depending on the taxpayer's income and access to an employer-sponsored retirement account.

STUDENT LOAN INTEREST DEDUCTION

Students can still deduct up to $2,500 for interest paid on student loans — but get less if median adjusted gross income exceeds $65,000 ($135,000 for joint returns) and nothing if it's $80,000 or more ($165,000 or more for joint returns).

CREDIT FOR THE ELDERLY OR THE DISABLED

Taxpayers 65 or older — or younger but retired or on permanent and total disability — may be eligible for a credit. Taxable income must be below $17,500 (or $20,000 if married and filing jointly) and nontaxable Social Security, pension, or disability benefits must be below $5,000. If both partners qualify and file jointly, the income limits are $25,000 for taxable income and $7,500 for nontaxable benefits. The credit itself ranges between $3,750 and $7,000.

SAVERS CREDIT

It isn't much, but the Savers Credit gives back to low- and moderate-income people who contribute to a qualified retirement account. Taxpayers can get a credit for 10 percent, 20 percent, or 50 percent of the first $2,000 contributed, depending on income and family size. To get the minimum 10 percent, the maximum allowed income is $31,500 for single filers, $47,250 for the head of a household, and $63,000 for joint filers. Also, beginning this year, beginning in 2018, if you're the designated beneficiary you may be eligible for a credit for contributions to your Achieving a Better Life Experience account for persons with disabilities.

SEP-IRA CONTRIBUTIONS

A longtime friend to small-business owners and freelancers, the Simplified Employee Pension IRA offers higher contribution limits than a traditional IRA. As their own employer, business owners and freelancers can contribute up to 25 percent of their annual income or $55,000, whichever is lower. As with a traditional IRA, contributions made before the tax-filing deadline (without an extension) can be applied to the previous year.

MORTGAGE INTEREST CREDIT

Taxpayers who get a Qualified Mortgage Credit Certificate worth up to $7,500 from a local or state government may be able to claim the Mortgage Interest Credit. The home must be the taxpayer's primary residence, and interest payments can't go to a taxpayer's relative. The credit is worth up to $2,000, and unused portions may be carried forward to the following year.

MEDICAL EXPENSES DEDUCTION

You can get a larger deduction for medical expenses in 2018 by doing absolutely nothing. Until recently, taxpayers 65 years or older could deduct total medical expenses that exceeded 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income. Even married couples that included one person 65 or older were eligible, but younger, single taxpayers could deduct only medical expenses that exceeded 10 percent of their AGI. For 2017, that threshold was slated to jump to the 10 percent of AGI for everyone, including those over 65; the recent tax reform set the threshold for everyone at 7.5 percent of gross income and made it retroactive to 2017. It stays in place for 2018, but will go back to 10 percent of AGI in 2019.

SOLO 401(K) CONTRIBUTIONS

Unfortunately, taxpayers can't just set one of these up before the tax deadline and save some cash. The one-participant 401(k), or solo or self-employed 401(k), requires you to file for a federal Employer Identification Number and set up the account by Dec. 31. But once a solo 401(k) is established, taxpayers can make contributions right up to the tax-filing date in April (or mid-October, with an extension). Total contributions can't exceed $55,000, but that's still nearly four times the maximum employee contribution to a standard 401(k) of $18,500.

BONUS DEPRECIATION

If you bought new office furniture, computer servers, cranes, end loaders, cattle, trucks, or taxis for a business last year, you may be able to write off more from them than you thought. Even if you built oil derricks, warehouses, office space, or utility plants after Sept. 26, 2017, the bonus depreciation you could claim on the first year of owning those assets increased from 50 percent just a day before to 100 percent "expensing" from Sept. 27 onward. Recent tax changes also extended bonus depreciation from items bought or built new to both new and used assets. That "expensing" applies to productions (qualified film, television, and/or staged performances) and even certain fruit or nuts. The law also increased the maximum deduction from $500,000 to $1 million, with the phase-out threshold increasing from $2 million to $2.5 million.

CAR EXPENSES

Self-employed people can deduct 54.5 cents a mile driven for business purposes the previous year; the rate goes up to 58 cents in 2019. That said, detailed mileage logs are required. Writing down the miles driven (odometer readings at the beginning and end of the trip help), the date, the business purpose of the trip, and the destination should be adequate. Taxpayers can also take a 18-cent-per-mile deduction for eligible miles driven for medical purposes in 2018, up from 17 cents in 2017 (and it's 20 cents in 2019). The standard mileage rate for charitable activities is unchanged at 14 cents. Moving expenses, however, no longer qualify for a deduction.

HOME OFFICE DEDUCTION

This one is tricky, as simply working on the couch or at a kitchen table doesn't cut it. A home office has to be a dedicated space for working and meeting clients and customers. Furthermore, office-related utilities including telephone, internet, and even heat and electricity have to be parsed out separately. You can try to determine which portion of a home's expenses, taxes, insurance, and depreciation is dedicated to a home office; a simplified version multiplies the square feet of the room by $5 (if the total size is 300 square feet or smaller). That said, you can only get this deduction if you're self-employed: It disappeared for employees in 2018.

STATE AND LOCAL TAX DEDUCTION

Under tax changes, deductions for state and local taxes (property tax and sales or income tax) are capped at $10,000 from 2018 through 2025. If your total state and local taxes and property taxes are typically more than the $10,000, there's no way to increase the deduction. The new tax law prohibited prepaying 2018 state and local taxes that were not imposed in 2017.

ADOPTION CREDIT

You may be able to take a tax credit of up to $13,810 for qualified expenses paid to adopt a child in 2018. Those expenses include adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, travel expenses (including amounts spent for meals and lodging), and readoption expenses for a foreign child. Those credits apply to adoptions of anyone under 18 years old or physically or mentally incapable of taking care of themselves. If your modified adjusted gross income is more than $207,140, the credit is reduced; those with MAGI of $247,140 or more can't take the credit.

ELECTRIC VEHICLE AND PLUG-IN HYBRID TAX CREDIT

Despite fears it would be eliminated, this credit still offers buyers of electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles up to $7,500 for the purchase. While this credit isn't going to be around forever, it's still a formidable tool for boosting sales of these fuel-efficient vehicles in spite of low gas prices and the market's hunger for less-efficient SUVs.

FOREIGN TAX CREDIT

If you paid or accrued income tax in a foreign country or U.S. possession in 2018, you can use it as a credit against U.S. income tax. If you already exclude foreign earned income, foreign housing costs, foreign possessions, or income from Puerto Rico exempt from U.S. tax, you aren't eligible. Also, your foreign tax credit can't be more than your U.S. tax liability multiplied against a fraction made up of taxable income from outside the United States and total taxable sources.

HOME SALE EXCLUSION

Most people who sell a home know that, if they've sold at a gain, they may exclude up to $250,000 of it if single or $500,000 if married filing jointly. Granted, you actually had to live in that home for two of the past five years (military, foreign service, and intelligence personnel are exempt). What most homeowners don't realize is that the gain isn't only on the sale price of the home, but on improvements made, real estate agent sales commissions, closing costs, recording fees, and survey fees. Kibler suggests keeping clear records of all of it in case of an audit and to keep a big chunk of the gain tax-free.

FOREIGN EARNED INCOME EXCLUSION

If you live in a foreign country for at least 330 full days out of the year, you can have up to $104,100 of your salaries, wages, professional fees, and other amounts you get as an employee excluded from federally taxable income. You may also exclude amounts your employer pays for rent, furniture rental, parking, or other items.

HSA CONTRIBUTION LIMITS

The IRS will allow taxpayers to make tax-free contributions and withdrawals from Health Savings Accounts as long as they go toward qualifying medical expenses. High-deductible health plans — with premiums ranging between $1,350 and $6,650 for singles and $2,700 and $13,300 for families — allow taxpayers to contribute up to $3,450 for single filers or $6,900 for families to HSAs without any tax implications.

NONBUSINESS ENERGY TAX CREDIT

The Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit covers materials that meet the efficiency standards of the Department of Energy. This includes home insulation, exterior doors, exterior windows and skylights, some roofing materials, electric heat pumps, various water heaters, central air conditioning, biomass stoves, furnaces, boilers, and advanced circulation fans. You can claim 10 percent of the minor improvements or 100 percent of the big ones, but you'll get only a maximum $500 credit for all years of improvements combined. It also sets credit limits for windows ($200), boilers ($150), fans ($50), and bigger jobs ($300).

RESIDENTIAL RENEWABLE ENERGY TAX CREDIT

If you're thinking about going solar, installing a small windmill, looking into geothermal heat, or experimenting with fuel cells, there's tax incentive to do so. You can get a 30 percent rebate on any of the above, but act quickly. If you don't install it by the end of 2019, the rebate drops every year until 2022.

CASUALTY, DISASTER AND THEFT LOSSES

In previous years, a taxpayer could get a deduction for any mishap that occurred in their home. But starting in 2018, the damage must have occurred during a federally declared disaster for a taxpayer to get that same deduction. This deduction may return in full in 2025, but for now it's limited to disaster areas.

WORK-RELATED EDUCATION

The self-employed, including those with freelance income, can write off educational expenses for workshops, webinars, books, or other material that maintain or improve skills. While educational expenses to meet the minimum requirements of a trade or business — or related to getting into a new line of work — don't qualify, refresher courses, courses on current developments, and academic or vocational courses would. The deduction is the amount by which qualifying work-related expenses is greater than 2 percent of adjusted gross income.

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The White House did not respond to numerous queries regarding this story. North Carolina Republican congressman Mark Meadows, a close Trump ally, dismissed the $102 million figure as insignificant.

“There’s a lot more important things to worry about than the rounding errors that we sometimes have on these things,” he said Tuesday.

Just as troubling as the amount Trump has spent so far on golf trips is the fact that his visits have been to his own properties — for-profit businesses that put money in his own pocket and that Trump routinely praises during his visits.

During his trip to Scotland last year, for example, Trump wrote: “I have arrived in Scotland and will be at Trump Turnberry for two days of meetings, calls and hopefully, some golf - my primary form of exercise! The weather is beautiful, and this place is incredible!”

“His top priority with these trips is not the business of the American people, it’s the business of the Trump Organization,” said Jordan Libowitz of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “The American presidency has become another tool to advertise his golf properties.”

I just want to stay in the White House and work my ass off.Candidate Donald Trump in 2016

The vast majority of Trump’s golf costs result from his insistence on playing at his Florida courses in West Palm Beach and Jupiter, where he has spent 61 days while staying at his resort in the nearby town of Palm Beach. A weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago averages $3.4 million, with most of that resulting from the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs each hour to fly both the modified Boeing 747 that serves as the primary Air Force One, as well as the C-17 cargo planes required to move all the support vehicles in Trump’s motorcade.

Determining the cost of Trump’s golf visits is not easy. The White House is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, and Trump’s press office does not answer most questions about his golf visits — even refusing to confirm whether he is, in fact, playing golf when he is physically at his golf courses.

But a recent Government Accountability Office report regarding Trump’s four early 2017 visits to Mar-a-Lago has provided hard data and a methodology that HuffPost followed in its own analysis.

The HuffPost analysis took a conservative approach to determining costs. For example, it used a per-hour rate of $15,994 for Trump’s use of the smaller Air Force One that he takes to Bedminster, New Jersey, even though that figure accounts only for fuel and maintenance, not the additional factors that GAO used when it determined the $273,000-per-hour cost of operating the larger plane.

Any presidential outing requires coordination of multiple offices and agencies and incurs additional costs compared to staying in the White House. Even one of Trump’s day trips to his course across the Potomac River in northern Virginia — there have been 52 to date — requires fuel for all the motorcade vehicles and some personnel costs if overtime is necessary for Secret Service agents and others. (Those expenses, however, are minimal compared to flight costs, and HuffPost did not include them in its $102 million total.)

And the price increases exponentially the farther Trump travels.

Flying the Marine Corps helicopters — three of them are used each time ― from the White House to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, where Air Force One is based, costs $57,000 for the round trip, according to the GAO report. Flying the massive C-17 transports loaded with Trump’s 7-ton armored limousines and other specialized support vehicles costs $800,500 per Mar-a-Lago trip.

And for each of those trips, the Coast Guard winds up spending an extra $855,500 to patrol the Atlantic Ocean to the east of Mar-a-Lago and the Intracoastal Waterway to the west. That figure includes the expense of getting necessary ships, boats and crews to South Florida from stations as far away as Boston and Houston, the GAO reported.

When Trump travels overseas, the costs rise even higher, as yet more agencies become involved. Dozens of White House staff members may travel with Trump during a weekend to Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster, but that number swells to several hundred on an overseas trip. The administration avoids lengthy motorcades on foreign soil, so Marine helicopters and V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft must be pre-positioned. A backup Air Force One is sent along as the support plane.

According to a Scottish newspaper last summer, the U.S. State Department paid a local car rental agency $1.2 million for vehicles for all the staff who relocated from London, where Trump had met with Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Theresa May, to Scotland, where Trump wanted to play golf at his Turnberry resort before heading to Finland to meet Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Between that expense and the costs of moving equipment from London to Glasgow and then 55 miles southwest to Turnberry, those two golf days cost taxpayers at least $3 million beyond what they would have spent if Trump had simply stayed in London, according to HuffPost’s analysis.

One of Trump’s favorite lines of attack against Obama was to point out his frequent golf outings during his presidency.

“I play golf to relax. My company is in great shape. @BarackObama plays golf to escape work while America goes down the drain,” Trump tweeted in December 2011.

“Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf. Worse than Carter,” he wrote three years later.

As he began his own run for the White House, candidate Trump repeatedly promised that golf would never make it onto a President Trump schedule. “I love golf, but if I were in the White House, I don’t think I’d ever see Turnberry again. I don’t think I’d ever see Doral again,” he told a rally audience in February 2016, referring to his course near the Miami airport. “I don’t ever think I’d see anything. I just want to stay in the White House and work my ass off.”

Trump reneged on that pledge within two weeks, when he took his first of 24 trips to date to Mar-a-Lago. He has, according to HuffPost’s analysis, spent a total of 61 days on his Florida courses, 58 at Bedminster in New Jersey, one at Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles and two at Trump Turnberry.

Wednesday is the 853rd day of his presidency, and Trump has spent 174 of them at one of his own golf courses. He spent one additional day golfing: Nov. 5, 2017, at the Kasumigaseki Country Club outside Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It is the only time thus far that he has played golf at a course he does not own.

That insistence of frequenting his own properties, in fact, has driven his total golf expenses disproportionately higher than Obama’s at the same point in his presidency.

By Obama’s 853rd day in office, he had spent 70 days at a golf course. But 48 of those golf days were at courses on military bases: Joint Base Andrews or Fort Belvoir, both in suburban Washington a short motorcade ride from the White House. All but two of the others were on family vacations to Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard.

And although Hawaii is four times as far from Washington, D.C., as Palm Beach, Obama only went there twice in his first 28 months. In that same time span, Trump has gone to Mar-a-Lago 24 times. While Obama made two trips to Martha’s Vineyard through May of 2011, Trump has already gone to Bedminster 15 times.

The result: Obama racked up out-of-town golf expenses of approximately $30 million compared to Trump’s $102 million.

And Trump’s tab will grow by several million dollars more if he follows through with a golf outing at his resort at Doonbeg, Ireland, before or after his coming trip to London and Normandy in early June. An Ireland stop means travel on Air Force One, C-17s to ferry vehicles and helicopters as well as hundreds of White House, Pentagon and State Department staff that make up the entourage of a foreign visit.

Cognizant of how a foreign visit solely for a golf vacation might look, the White House tried to arrange some type of official meeting with Irish leaders for weeks after it began planning the Doonbeg trip.

But Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s government, cognizant of Trump’s deep unpopularity in Ireland, was reluctant to agree to the White House request that Varadkar travel to Trump’s private resort on the opposite side of the country from Dublin, said an Irish government source who spoke on condition of anonymity. Tuesday’s announcement of a meeting in Shannon, possibly at Shannon airport — where Air Force One will land — appears to be the compromise location.

“We welcome the announcement of the visit by the U.S. president,” the Irish Embassy said in a statement Tuesday. “Detailed arrangements around the visit will be made public in due course.”

Just as troubling as the amount Trump has spent so far on golf trips is the fact that his visits have been to his own properties — for-profit businesses that put money in his own pocket.

The White House press staff, meanwhile, did not respond to repeated queries about various aspects of this report over a period of weeks.

It is the same strategy that Trump has used throughout his two and a half years in office when it comes to his golfing. While the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama White Houses usually released the names of the president’s golf partners after any given outing, the Trump White House has almost always refused to confirm that Trump even golfed — including on occasions when he has shown up wearing a golf shirt, trousers and ball cap. (The only exceptions have been when Trump has played with a famous person or a member of Congress.)

On March 3, 2018, HuffPost filed a White House pool report from Mar-a-Lago stating: “Pool did ask the White House what the president was doing at his golf course and with whom he was doing it but received no reply.”

This past Sunday, four hours after arriving at Trump’s golf course in Sterling, Virginia, the Washington Blade reporter serving as pool wrote: “No word from the White House on POTUS’ golf partners, nor even confirmation POTUS was, in fact, golfing.”

On some golf days, Trump or his White House have claimed — dubiously — that he is involved in “meetings,” when, in fact, social media posts later show he had been out on the course.

Meanwhile, Trump’s Republican supporters who, like Trump, spent years attacking Obama for his golf outings have suddenly gone silent.

During Obama’s second term, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso asked the GAO to look at a trip he took that combined a speech in Illinois with a golf weekend in Palm Beach. When the GAO released a report in 2016, Barrasso said in a statement: “President Obama had such little disregard for the taxpayer that he spent millions of dollars to play golf with Tiger Woods. This arrogance is par for the course for the Obama administration.”

Asked about Trump’s far higher golf spending, Barrasso told HuffPost Tuesday: “I haven’t followed that at all.”

Michael Steel, once a top aide to former Republican House Speaker John Boehner, acknowledged that Republicans’ views on presidential golf may not be consistent in recent years. “There’s no question that people’s concerns and criticisms often come with a partisan lens,” he said. “At the same time, I don’t think anyone prefers the president be watching television and tweeting than playing golf ... I think it’s healthy for people to relax.”

More troubling to watchdog groups than Trump’s hypocrisy, though, is the self-dealing that occurs whenever Trump travels to his own resorts. On top of the publicity value of a presidential visit, each trip also results in many thousands of taxpayer dollars flowing to Trump resorts for hotel rooms, golf carts and food and drink for Secret Service agents.

Because Trump continues to profit from these businesses — despite a promise he made during the campaign that he would not — a portion of that taxpayer money ends up in Trump’s own pocket. The GAO report found that Mar-a-Lago received approximately $60,000 in just the four visits it studied.

“As Trump promotes his golf courses through taxpayer-financed visits to his clubs, it’s an extra benefit for him that his properties are able to scoop up some taxpayer money directly,” said Public Citizen’s Weissman.

“It’s clear that to Donald Trump, the presidency is just another way to benefit his businesses,” CREW’s Libowitz added. “Because of his refusal to divest from his business empire, Americans must always ask whether his decisions are made primarily with his bank account in mind.”

Igor Bobic and Arthur Delaney contributed reporting.

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