Remember back when America was trying to figure out how Donald Trump the business man and Donald Trump the president were going to coexist, considering Trump could, say, host events at, say, a property he owns, like Mar-a-Lago, and, I’m just spitballing here, because he’s the president, the charges would be footed by the American people, and Trump would profit?
Well, it turns out that’s exactly what’s been happening, and we haven’t even been getting the presidential discount rates. Not only that, but taxpayers paid to get Trump aides slathered as they reportedly ran up a $1,076 drinking bill that was paid for by, you guessed it, taxpayers.
According to emails obtained by pro-transparency group Property of the People, and published by ProPublica, Trump and his team were staying at Mar-a-Lago, the dump with the suspect kitchen practices, for two days during the president’s meeting with Xi Jinping in April 2017. Trump staffers reportedly dipped off into the Library bar and asked for some bottles and not to be disturbed.
Brooke Watson, Mar-a-Lago’s catering director, wrote in an email to the State Department in June 2017 that aides told the barman to leave the liquor and bounce, which he did. Secret Service didn’t allow anyone into the room, and they reportedly passed the Courvoisier.
“They asked the bartender to leave so they could speak confidentially and Secret Service did not allow the bartender to enter the room again. The group served themselves,” Watson’s email read.
What’s worse is that the Library bar reportedly has a painting of a young Trump wearing an all-white tennis outfit titled “The Visionary.”
After drinking up all of America’s liquor, the aides left without paying. The group, which included former adviser and current white nationalist Steve Bannon, had 54 drinks worth $838. The bill totaled $1,076, including a 20% service charge, according to the bar-tab, seen by Property of the People and published by ProPublica.
Trump’s aides enjoyed $352 of Chopin vodka, $240 of Patron and $150 of Don Julio Blanco tequila (which they separated from his children at the border), and $96 of Woodford Reserve bourbon, the receipt shows.
ProPublica notes that the bill initially was sent to the US State Department and was then forwarded on to the White House, which paid the aides’ bar tab using taxpayer money. And guess who profits?
The emails were obtained as part of a larger lawsuit that’s investigating the business relationship the White House has with Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.
But the drinking escapade appears to be only the tip of the iceberg. According to the emails, months after Trump’s inauguration, the State Department asked for a presidential discount and offered to pay $200,000 “for all room costs for federal employees who stay at Mar-a-Lago over the first term of his presidency.”
But, get this, Mar-a-Lago rejected the government’s proposal and instead bills the government the maximum allowed under federal rules for lodging, which works out to be $546 a night, 300% of the government’s per diem rate, ProPublica reports.
Since Mar-a-Lago wouldn’t agree to a bulk contract, the State Department had to go to Plan B. When it came to the meeting with China’s president, for example, the agency had to go into some contortions to make Mar-a-Lago’s $546 nightly room rate square with its rules on competitive bidding, given that there are other less expensive hotels nearby. At least 16 staffers stayed at the Hampton Inn in West Palm Beach; at least eight stayed at the nearby Hilton Garden Inn; and four others stayed at the Tideline Ocean Resort & Spa, where the press pool also stayed, according to a hotel manifest obtained through the FOIA lawsuit. The government-negotiated rates at those establishments ranged from $195 to $305 per night.
At least 24 White House and federal staffers stayed at Mar-a-Lago during the Xi visit. They included then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; then-chief of staff Reince Priebus; then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; then-National Economic Council adviser Gary Cohn; and other advisers, past and present, such as Bannon, Hope Hicks, Stephen Miller and Sean Spicer.
Proving once again that when it comes to most things Trump, all of this is shady AF.