An independent U.S. government watchdog has agreed to investigate the myriad of security concerns raised by President Trump’s constant presence at his Mar-A-Lago resort, which he has designated as his “Winter White House.”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is responding to concerns raised by Democratic members of Congress after Trump was seen discussing highly confidential issues relating to North Korea with the Japanese Prime Minister in February inside the public Mar-A-Lago dining room among other guests.
The GAO just confirmed in a letter to lawmakers that it will investigate what security measures the Secret Service is taking to ensure classified information isn’t leaking – such as subjecting other guests to security screenings – as well as looking into expenditures by government employees traveling with the President on his frequent weekend trips to his resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
The GAO will also look into whether Trump or the Mar-A-Lago has made any payments to the U.S. Treasury from profits at the hotel that come from foreign governments, as the President promised at a January 11 news conference.
The GAO will also look at whether charges by the Mar-A-Lago for government agencies and personnel are fair and reasonable.
According to the Washington Post, the probe will also look at whether payments have been made for government use at other Trump properties.
Last week, the Secret Sevice requested another $60 million for the coming year to cover the escalating costs of protecting Trump in addition to the money already in the budget, because of the “complexity” of covering Trump and his many family members.
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, had sent Trump a letter in February asking for information on reports Trump discussed sensitive information in public at Mar-A-Lago.
In a February 16 letter to the GAO, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MASS) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) had asked for an assessment of whether Trump or his staff had violated security protocols when foreign dignitaries visited Mar-A-Lago.
Cummings said the GAO confirmed it would conduct an “independent review” of Trump at his Winter White House, and at other locations.
Udall has called for Trump to keep logs of all of his official visitors to Mar-A-Lago, and other locations such as Trump Tower in New York where he does government business. He introduced a bill earlier this week to force such logs to be kept.
Trump’s spokesman may deny any breach, but there is a valid reason for concern. For instance, one guest at Mar-A-Lago posted a photo on Instagram of himself with a Secret Service agent who was carrying the “nuclear football,” the device that the President can use in an emergency to declare nuclear war.
During that same evening, Trump held an important national security conference with the Prime Minister of Japan in full earshot of Mar-A-Lago guests. For a man whose electoral campaign focused on the alleged misuse of classified information by his opponent, the hypocrisy is incredible.
Trump is costing the U.S. about $3 million each time he goes to Mar-A-Lago, and other sums when he goes to New York for the weekend, or to his golf club in New Jersey.
At at time Trump is proposing a budget that includes severe cuts for the poor, the elderly, the sick and needy, as well as the environment and a range of services, it is more than reasonable for him to own up to his spending.
Trump ran as a populist candidate, and now it is his obligation to do right by the American people. Trump has not responded to news about the GAO investigation, but it is his duty to cooperate and pay back his excessive expenditures.