The State Department announced the decision to release just the two pages late Thursday in an email to The Post, which had filed a public-records lawsuit earlier this year, seeking any records showing State Department payments to Trump properties.
The State Department pays for hotel rooms and other expenses when foreign leaders visit Trump properties, and when federal employees, such as Secret Service agents, follow Trump and his family to the president’s overseas clubs. But it’s impossible to tell how much the department has spent in total, because it has released detailed records for only the first few months of Trump’s presidency.
The Post’s lawsuit asked for a fuller accounting, requesting records of those payments over several years of Trump’s term.
In response, the State Department had said in a legal filing it would try to release up to 300 pages of the remaining records on Thursday. Instead, it sent the two pages — the receipts of a single hotel bill from Trump’s Irish golf course, involving security for Trump’s daughter-in-law and campaign adviser Lara Trump.
The department declined to comment about its decision. The White House also declined to comment. Under the schedule previously set in court filings, the State Department does not plan to release more records until mid-November.
Also this week, the General Services Administration — responding to a Post public-records request about its own business relationship with Trump’s company — released 26 pages of internal documents with only 10 words total. The rest was redacted.
These actions come after a year in which The Post has sought to answer a question: How much taxpayer money has been paid to President Trump’s company since he took office?
The federal government has declined to answer. Instead, The Post has sought to compile its own accounting, using public records requests and a lawsuit to obtain one receipt at a time.
So far, The Post has found more than $1.2 million in taxpayer payments to Trump’s company. But the data is still incomplete because some federal agencies have not yet provided years worth of their own spending data.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, federal agencies are supposed to respond to requests in 20 business days and deliver any relevant documents promptly thereafter. But in many cases, according to federal data, requests go unfulfilled for months or years.
In cases involving federal payments to Trump’s businesses, those delays can defeat the purpose of the law — by keeping information about the president hidden until after voters have chosen whether to reelect him, said Adam Marshall, an attorney at the nonprofit Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.
“That is exactly what the law is designed to do: It’s designed to get information into the hands of the public so they can have an informed debate and discussion” about policy issues or candidates, Marshall said.
This week, at last, the agencies were supposed to provide what they had not.
The Post had filed public-records requests with the State Department in February, asking for any disbursement records showing payments to Trump properties. The Post filed a lawsuit in June when the requests weren’t answered. In response to the suit, the State Department had said it would produce its first batch of documents Thursday.
In a court filing in August, the department said it would “aspire to process potentially responsive records at a rate of 300 pages” for that first batch.
Instead, at 4:47 p.m. Thursday, it sent two.
They showed that in May 2019, Lara Trump visited the Trump Organization’s Doonbeg golf club in Ireland. Her Secret Service detail followed, and — as often happened — the Trump Organization charged the government for their rooms. The total bill was $8,316, but the rate charged per room was redacted.
With their travels, Trump’s adult children and their families have brought the Trump Organization more than $245,000 in payments from the Secret Service, documents show. When they go to Trump properties, agents have to follow, and the Trump Organization charges the government for their rooms. On trips overseas, the State Department pays the bill, later seeking reimbursement from the Secret Service.
If the State Department sticks to the remaining schedule it laid out in August, the next batch of documents won’t be released until Nov. 16, long after Election Day.
The General Services Administration has a different kind of business relationship with Trump: It’s not his customer, it’s his landlord. Trump’s D.C. hotel is housed in a building his company leases from the federal government, under a deal set up long before he ran for office.
Previously, The Post had asked the GSA’s press office for details about that relationship. Among the questions posed to the agency: Has Trump’s company asked Trump’s government to delay any rent payments, as the coronavirus pandemic decimates its business? Would the government allow Trump’s company to sell the hotel to a foreign government?
The GSA’s communications office did not respond to those requests. Then The Post filed a public-records request, asking for emails within the communications office, hoping to find out what had become of its requests.
That request also went unanswered, for 134 days.
Then, on Thursday, there was an answer — of a sort. The GSA provided 26 pages of what were, presumably, those emails. But the documents had been heavily redacted. Only scattered words appeared — signs that somebody had followed the bureaucratic rituals of transparency without providing any transparency at all.
The words were:
“Team - I got this.”