1. Opinion

Trump's trips versus Obama's: When vacations cost millions

Published Apr. 18, 2017

The cost of rest and recreation for U.S. presidents can be hard to calculate. But government records make reasonable estimates possible. The short answer: Taxpayers are footing big bills in security and travel costs for presidents to get away from the White House. President Barack Obama and his family cost the American taxpayers in the range of $100 million during his eight years in office. Right now, President Donald Trump is on track to cost something close to that in his first year.

Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, obtained government records in December 2016 near the end of the Obama administration and summarized the Obama family's eight years of travel, putting the known cost at $96.9 million. "The Obamas' notorious abuse of presidential travel perks wasted military resources and stressed the Secret Service. Judicial Watch estimates that the final costs of Obama's unnecessary vacation and political travel will well exceed $100 million," Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said in December. At that time, he added: "President-elect Trump can immediately save taxpayers money by reforming presidential travel."

What is Fitton saying about Trump's travels so far? "It's a rather obvious use of taxpayer resources for seemingly unnecessary purposes."

Obama's travel in eight years:

$96.9 million

Highlights from documents obtained by Judicial Watch:

• Secret Service records show Obama's April 2015 Earth Day trip to give a global warming speech in the Everglades cost taxpayers $145,752.36, making the total cost of the trip at least $1,012,367.76.

• Air Force records regarding Michelle Obama's trip to Morocco, Spain and Liberia with her daughters in June 2016 revealed $450,026.40 in flight expenses alone. A C-32A was flown for 28.4 hours.

• Air Force records show that the Obamas' August 2016 vacation to Martha's Vineyard cost taxpayers $450,295 in flight expenses alone.

• CNN notes that a GAO report about a four-day trip Obama took to Florida in 2013 — one similar to Trump's trips — found the total cost to the Secret Service and Coast Guard was $3.6 million.

Trump's travel in 88 days:

$21 million

• Trump is on pace in his first year of office to approach Obama's spending on travel for his entire eight years, according to CNN's estimates.

• His Easter weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Florida, was his seventh visit there in 13 weekends since taking office.

• Estimates of the cost of trips to Mar-a-Lago hover around $3 million per weekend, which would mean $21 million was burned in Trump's first months in office.

• The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office has spent $3.5 million since the election, including $1.5 million for the Chinese president's visit, which attracted a couple of thousand demonstrators.

So what about golf?

The Tampa Bay Times' PolitiFact has tracked the number of times Donald Trump has played golf, compared with Barack Obama at the same point of his presidency. The count as of now: Trump 14, Obama 0.


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