From high-priced golf weekends to dining room selfies and not-so-private meetings with dignitaries, President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort has been a constant headache for the Trump administration, but sources say that could change in the upcoming season as White House staff strategizes ways to keep Trump away from the guests.
Chief of staff John Kelly is reportedly hoping to keep Trump “out of the dining room” at the Palm Beach, Florida resort as Trump starts to resume his travel there this winter, according to a Vanity Fair report.
The Mar-a-Lago dining room has harbored its fair share of scandal for the Trump administration and the move is reportedly Kelly’s attempt to better control a president defined by his unconventional manner.
Just weeks after taking office, President Trump ate dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the resort’s public dining room and discussed a North Korean missile test. Days later a guest posted a selfie on Facebook with a person he claimed was carrying the nuclear football.
“This is Rick…He carries the ‘football’,” the guest wrote in the now-deleted post. “…It functions as a mobile hub in the strategic defense system of the United States. It is held by an aide-de-camp. and Rick is the Man.”
Later that year Trump held an unannounced meeting with Former Colombian President Andres Pastrana, about which then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer apparently knew nothing.
Affectionately referred to as the “Winter White House” by the president, Trump’s visible faux pas at Mar-a-Lago are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to complaints about his frequent visits to the Palm Beach, Florida resort — he spent 25 days there during the first three months of this presidency.
Liberal naysayers criticize his visits as too expensive — each visit could cost as much as $3 million based on a report from the conservative-leaning Government Accountability Office on similar trips taken by former President Barack Obama. That would mean Trump has already spent more than $21 million traveling to Mar-a-Lago.
Trump’s visits to the Florida estate have also been criticized for a lack of transparency. Membership initiation fees at Mar-a-Lago doubled after Trump was elected and the club is seen as a place where the rich and influential can rub elbows with the president outside of the public view.
No comprehensive system tracks presidential visitors at Mar-a-Lago, and government watchdog groups filed suit against the Trump administration in April for records of who Trump visits with when away at his properties.
“Given the many issues we have already seen in this White House with conflicts of interest, outside influence, and potential ethics violations, transparency is more important than ever, so we had no choice but to sue,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a government watchdog group in Washington said in a statement at the time.