Last week, The Post reported that the Secret Service had been charged nearly $400 and as much as $650 per night for rooms at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, and charged $17,000 a month for a cottage that agents used at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. President Trump still owns his companies. These payments show he has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government.
Officials at President Trump’s company maintain that Trump and the firm do not profit when government officials stay at their properties.
“They stay at our properties for free — meaning, like, cost for housekeeping,” Eric Trump, who runs his father’s company day-to-day, said last year in an interview with Yahoo Finance. He estimated the charge per room was “50 bucks.”
The company also issued a statement to The Post saying: “We charge the U.S. Government simple cost and make zero profit.” It did not explain how it calculates those costs.
The charges revealed by The Post “raise serious concerns about the use of taxpayer dollars and raise questions about government spending at other Trump properties,” the letter said. Maloney took over the committee in November, following the death of former chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.).
The Secret Service did not respond to questions about the letter Wednesday morning.
The Post identified $471,000 worth of payments from the Secret Service to Trump’s company, but — because so little data is available — the actual number is probably higher. The payments are not listed in a public spending database, as is usually required for payments above $10,000. Instead, The Post pieced them together using documents from public records requests — but most of the available documents date back to 2017 or 2018.
In interviews, hotel experts said the sums charged — even the lower $396.15 nightly rate at Mar-a-Lago in 2018 — that the Trump Organization is probably profiting off the stays.
In the hotel industry, offering a room “at cost” typically means to rent it for the cost to clean the room, wash the linens, pay utilities and replace items such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toilet paper, tissues and coffee.
The biggest cost by far is paying housekeepers. William Frye, a hotel industry consultant who co-wrote the textbook “Managing Housekeeping Operations,” said that the industry rule of thumb was that each housekeeper can clean between 13 and 17 guest rooms per day, spending about half an hour or less on each room.
Frye said the total generally ranges from about $12 in a low-end hotel or $40 or $50 at a luxury hotel. “If we’re talking about a Ritz-Carlton or a Four Seasons, the costs to service a room might be around $40 or $50.”
Other experts said costs could be greater for a high-end property like Mar-a-Lago, an exclusive club in a pricey vacation and retirement destination that lists 34 guest rooms and cottages on its website.
Still, experts said, there was no way it could cost $650 or even $400 to service a room.
“No. That’s not possible,” said Diego Bufquin, a professor at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. Even at luxury hotels, he said, the cost of servicing a room should not exceed $80 per night.
“Let’s say that you use the best shampoos, the best soaps, the best conditioners, the best coffee,” Bufquin said. “At the end of the day you may have something approaching $100, if you have the top products in the world in your guest room. . . . I’ve never seen variable costs per room sold at $400.”
Until recently, the Trump Organization kept labor costs down by relying on undocumented workers and applying for foreign guest workers to serve as housekeepers. The company fired dozens of undocumented workers last year after media reports about their employment.
This year, the club told the Department of Labor it wanted to hire 15 foreign housekeepers at a Mar-a-Lago at a starting wage of $11.17 per hour. The club also pays the cost of getting the workers to Palm Beach, and makes housing available for an extra cost of $75 per week.
Victorina Morales, a former Trump Organization housekeeper who cleaned the Bedminster cottage that the Secret Service has rented for $17,000 per month, said that she did not clean the house as regularly as some of the other Bedminster villas because the Secret Service agents tended to be protective of their space. The agents often even took out their own trash.
Morales, who was undocumented, estimated she would tidy up the “Sarazen Cottage” one to three times per week. Sometimes these sessions would be very brief — five to 10 minutes — and other times the supervisors would ask for a more extensive cleaning, so Morales would spend 30 minutes to an hour. She would change sheets, vacuum, clean bathrooms and bring in fresh towels.
In its letter, the House Oversight Committee said that the “Secret Service has not disclosed the full scope of its payments to the President’s businesses or its expenses for presidential travel to [Trump’s] own properties.”
It said the charges stand “in stark contrast” to the Trump Organization’s public statements claiming that it isn’t making money off the stays.
The Secret Service is legally required to send Congress a report every six months on its spending to protect presidential residences. But since the start of Trump’s term, the letter said, the Secret Service has provided only three of the required six reports.
And, even in those three, the lines for spending at Trump’s Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago clubs are both blank, the committee said. The letter asks the Secret Service to explain why.
The committee set a deadline of Feb. 25.
Joshua Partlow contributed to this report.