President Trump’s day began Monday the same way each day had begun for more than a week: He woke up at Mar-a-Lago, the property he owns in Florida that he has dubbed the “winter White House.” That’s fitting so far this winter: Trump has not been to the actual White House once since before the season began on Dec. 21.
Over the course of his presidency, Trump has visited a Trump-owned or branded property on three out of every 10 days. Slightly more: Of the 1,075 days on which he has been president, he has visited Mar-a-Lago or a Trump Something-or-other on 331 of them, 31 percent of the time. Barring a sudden change of heart late Monday, he’ll spend at least part of Dec. 31 at Mar-a-Lago, too. That means he will have visited a Trump property on 117 days in 2019, the same number as in 2017.
In the abstract, it’s a striking figure but, perhaps, one that’s hard to intuit. Expressed visually, though, the effect is dramatic.
Although his trips overseas often limit his ability to pop over to one of his golf courses for a round, he has included stops at Trump properties while visiting other countries (including his golf clubs in the U.K.).
Generally, the pace at which he visits Trump properties has been steady. There have been two noticeable lulls, though. One came in the summer of 2017, after hurricanes struck the Gulf Coast and Puerto Rico. The other came at the end of last year, when the government shutdown made travel to Mar-a-Lago for the holidays a politically unsound proposition.
That second gap meant that Trump didn’t visit one of his properties at all in December 2018, the only month since January 2017 (when he was president only 12 days) when he hasn’t paid such a visit. On average, he visits a Trump property on about 30 percent of the days in a month, making this month (when he will have spent more than 40 percent of days at a Trump property) above average. Generally, August is the month in which Trump spends the most time at one of the property he owns, a function of his summer vacations at his club in Bedminster, N.J.
It’s worth remembering that this was not the promise Trump offered voters in 2016. At a rally on Aug. 8, 2016, Trump assured the audience that, “because I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf.” He added a “believe me,” to make the point.
One year later to the day, as president, Trump likely played golf at Bedminster. Two years later, on Aug. 8, 2018? Trump likely played golf at Bedminster. Three years later, on Aug. 8 of this year, Trump was at the White House — but he left for Bedminster the next day.
We use “likely” in the sentences above because the Trump administration is loath to acknowledge when he’s playing a round of golf, for perhaps obvious reasons. Just last week, Trump insisted in conversations with members of the military that during his time away from the White House he “really pretty much work[s].”
That was on the morning of Dec. 24. Within an hour, he was headed to his golf club in Palm Beach.
But because the White House rarely acknowledges when Trump is playing, we can only estimate (based on social media posts, news reports and the weather) when he has played. That makes it slightly harder to compare Trump’s propensity for golf with President Barack Obama’s, a comparison Trump very much enjoyed making before becoming president.
As he did on Dec. 21, 2015.
“Obama, it was reported today, played 250 rounds of golf, and he’s going to be in Hawaii, I think that they say for three weeks,” Trump said. “How can a president — for three weeks! I don’t have time for that. I love golf. I think it’s one of the greats but I don’t have time.”
Trump, who is in his second week of vacation, apparently played a round of golf on Dec. 21. He arrived at Mar-a-Lago the prior day (compared with Obama’s departure for Hawaii on Dec. 19, 2015) and will apparently remain there until Jan. 5. (Obama was back in D.C. on Jan. 4, 2016.)
As for those 250 rounds? Trump is getting close. Our estimate has him at just over 200 rounds, with another 40-plus visits to golf clubs where he didn’t play. That’s well over twice what Obama had played by the same point in his presidency.
What’s most remarkable about the discrepancy between Trump’s campaign-trail insistence and his behavior as president is how unremarkable it is by now. We’re simply used to Trump ducking out of the White House over and over again to visit one of his properties for a round of golf or a political fundraiser. He has spent all or part of nearly 120 days of his presidency at Mar-a-Lago alone.
Which, really, reinforces Trump’s point. It is the winter White House, if one expands the definition of “White House” to simply reflect the place where the president happens to be living.