The White House on Friday defended President Trump's decision to spend tens of million of dollars on weekend travel to his private golf clubs, which has already cost taxpayers more than $20 million just a few months into his presidency.
The issue received fresh attention after Trump said he would stay the weekend at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., and said that would be cheaper for taxpayers than a weekend at Trump Tower in New York. Trump's critics say spending the weekend at the White House would have saved the taxpayers even more, given the extra travel and security costs that accrue when the president overnights outside of Washington.
"This is the president's first time to be back in the New York metro area, and he's staying in his private residence in New Jersey versus Manhattan. Had he stayed in Manhattan, the disruption would have been far greater than being in New Jersey," deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders said. "The bottom line is, the president is the president no matter where he goes and he doesn't get to control the level of costs and security that may come along with that."
Trump has spent most weekends away from the White House at his member-only country club in Palm Beach, Fla. With Mar-a-Lago closed for the summer, Trump is spending this weekend at his club in Bedminster. These trips have been estimated to cost taxpayers more than $20 million just three months into his presidency.
Trump appears to be sensitive to the criticism. On Friday morning, he tweeted that he was spending the weekend in New Jersey, rather than at Trump Tower, to save taxpayers money. "Rather than causing a big disruption in N.Y.C., I will be working out of my home in Bedminster, N.J. this weekend. Also saves country money!" the president said.
Just two of Trump's weekend visits to Mar-a-Lago in Florida cost taxpayers an estimated $1.28 million, according to documents released by the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch. But that figure only totals the cost of using Air Force One.
Documents from the Air Force show that the hourly cost of operating Air Force One is $142,000 per hour, and the new documents revealed Thursday by Judicial Watch show that a February trip to Trump's Florida getaway required 4.7 hours of travel time, and a March trip took up 4.3 hours of travel time.
The cost picture still isn't complete, as other expenses like security costs haven't been disclosed by some of the other federal agencies involved.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said his group "tracked some of the costs of President Obama's unnecessary travel and we're not closing up shop with a new administration."
The president's frequent travel early on to Mar-a-Lago in South Florida — what Trump once dubbed the "Southern White House" — drew some criticism, especially after reports that local agencies, especially the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office were incurring heavy security costs.
Judicial Watch also tracked the cost to taxpayers for President Obama's travel, putting a $96-million price tag on his eight years in office, which included Air Force One and Secret Service costs.