The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s company billed the government at least $2.5 million. Here are the key charges.

A window is illuminated at Mar-a-Lago during a dinner with President Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on March 7 in Palm Beach, Fla. (Alex Brandon/AP)

President Trump has visited his own properties more than 280 times since he took office — hosting summits at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, taking summer breaks at his club in Bedminster, N.J., and pausing international trips to visit his golf resorts in Scotland and Ireland.

These visits brought the president to familiar places, full of friends, family and political supporters.

They also brought his company money, from American taxpayers.

The Washington Post has obtained federal spending records showing that — while Trump was visiting his properties — his company was benefiting from payments from the U.S. government.

The total: at least $2.5 million in taxpayer funds. Much of that spending was triggered by Trump’s travel, or the travel of his family and aides.

These were some of the notable charges:

$7,000 for a dinner

When Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in April 2017, Trump hosted a formal dinner at the club — and, over dessert, told Xi that the United States had fired missiles into Syria, he said. Trump later said the dessert was: “The most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen.”

Trump’s club later charged the government more than $7,000 for the 30-person dinner, including charges for wine, floral arrangements and decorative potted palm trees. The bill appears to include Trump’s own meal.

$6,000 for flowers

In April 2018, Trump held his third summit at the club — meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This time, Mar-a-Lago sharply increased its charges for flowers, billing the government $6,000 for two days’ work.

A bill obtained by The Post shows the charges included centerpieces for dinners and meetings, plus an array of votive candles, floating candles and candelabras. The florist also charged to scour the property for unapproved flowers, “not wanting any white or yellow flowers to be inside property.” The reason for that was not mentioned in the bill. Mar-a-Lago’s florist declined to comment, citing a nondisclosure agreement.

$17,000 per month for a cottage

Trump’s club in Bedminster, N.J., charges the Secret Service $17,000 a month, every month, from May to November each year. The reason: the Secret Service uses a cottage on the club grounds, near the cottages that Trump and his daughter Ivanka use.

These rental charges — which are unusually high for homes in the area — continue whether Trump or his family are present or not. The reason: A former administration official said that, because Trump’s travels are unpredictable, the Secret Service needed to have a place reserved just in case.

“If he came in the Oval on, let’s say, on a Wednesday and said, ‘I want to go this weekend,’ you have to be ready,” the former administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal administration matters.

$650 for hotel rooms

Trump’s son Eric, who runs the Trump Organization day-to-day, has said the company charges only “like 50 bucks” for rooms used by the government. But the company has charged far higher rates than that, documents show: $612 for rooms at Trump’s hotel in Vancouver, $242 for hotel rooms in Washington, and up to $650 for hotel rooms at Mar-a-Lago, according to people who have seen unredacted receipts.

During Abe’s visit to Mar-a-Lago, the club gave him the use of a nearby Trump-owned house as an office space. The club charged the U.S. government $1,584 per night for the house, documents show.

$1,000 for a drinking session by White House staff

During Xi’s visit to Mar-a-Lago, State Department records show, a group of White House staffers kicked the bartender out of a bar at Mar-a-Lago and served themselves. “So they could speak confidentially,” the club’s catering director later explained, in an email to the State Department.

The club later sent the government a bill for what they drank: 54 drinks of tequila, vodka and bourbon at $15 or $16 each, plus service charge.

The records show that Trump’s adult children have driven business to their family company, by visiting Trump properties with their own Secret Service agents in tow. Agents followed Eric Trump to the company’s golf clubs in Scotland and Ireland, as the president’s son led tours for paying customers. Agents also accompanied Ivanka Trump on multiple trips to the Trump club in Bedminster.

Those visits make the Secret Service a captive customer, required to rent rooms near the Trump family. Even when Bedminster was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic this spring, Trump’s company still charged for the agents’ rooms.

$3 for water

This is one of the smallest charges that Trump’s business ever asked taxpayers to pay. But it was also one of the most revealing — showing how aggressive Trump’s club was in billing taxpayers, even for the smallest of services.

When Trump and Abe met at Mar-a-Lago, their first meeting was a brief one on the couch in Mar-a-Lago’s central living room. The two men shook hands for the press, and made brief remarks about what they hoped the summit would achieve.

There was no food served. No private room to rent. Seemingly, nothing to charge for.

But Mar-a-Lago still sent the government a bill.

“Bilateral meeting,” the bill said. “Water.” The price was $3 each, including service charge. Taxpayers had effectively paid Trump’s company to serve him water.