The claim: Trump’s golf trips have cost the American taxpayer $141,000,000
One of President Donald Trump’s favorite recreational activities is golf.
Robert Reich, author and former Labor secretary, claims in an Oct. 19 post to his Facebook page that the hobby is subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.
“Once again, Trump brags about donating his $400,000 presidential salary. Somehow he forgot to mention that his golf trips have cost taxpayers $141,000,000,” says a screenshot of a tweet Reich posted that same day.
Reich has not responded to a request for comment from USA TODAY. The White House was also asked to comment.
It is likely the estimated costs of the president’s golf trips was derived from independent websites such as Trump Golf Count, which tracks government spending.
Trump’s golf trips
Presidents routinely travel for business and campaign events; in the latter case, the campaign is required to reimburse the government, USA TODAY reported. But the reasons for official travel are at the discretion of the White House, rendering the price of Trump’s golf trips a bit of a mystery.
In 2017-18, Trump spent 69 days of his presidency in Mar-a-Lago, a Palm Beach, Florida, resort owned by the Trump Organization; 33 at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club; and 31 at Trump National in Sterling, Virginia, according to USA TODAY in June 2018.
Sophie Germain has kept track of the president’s golfing and its costs at the Trump Golf Count site since his 2017 inauguration. USA TODAY has reached out to her for comment.
An itemized breakdown of travel costs to various golf resorts totaled $141,450,266, according to Germain. Her tally of expenses includes the cost of flights to Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster; law enforcement personnel costs for trips to Bedminster and Palm Beach; Coast Guard protections for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago getaways; government-funded resort stays and luxury vehicle rentals in Turnberry, Scotland, another Trump-owned property, in 2018; and lodgings at Trump’s golf club in Doonbeg, Ireland, in 2019. The last golf trip recorded on the website happened on Oct. 16.
Let’s look at the details.
Overall expenses for Trump’s travels to New Jersey and Florida were estimated at $6.4 million a year, and security costs charged by local governments are reimbursed by the federal government, according to Trump Golf Count.
A portion of Germain’s calculations are sourced from a 2019 Government Accountability Report that details expenses incurred by federal agencies between Feb. 3 and March 5, 2017.
Using the same data for a February 2019 report, the Washington Post estimated Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago alone cost the U.S. taxpayer approximately $64 million during his first two years in office.
Roughly $10.6 million was spent on operating costs for government aircraft and boats and $3 million on temporary duty costs including transportation, meals, lodging and incidental expenses from Feb. 3-6; Feb. 10-12; Feb. 17-20; and March 3-5, 2017, according to The Post. About $13.5 million was spent on services provided by the Department of Homeland Security the Defense Department made up the bulk of the expenses.
Another $60,000, including $24,000 for lodging for Defense Department personnel and $36,000 for operational space used by DHS, was noted in the report.
Air Force One costs would be among the Defense Department’s expenses. In fiscal year 2020, the mission reimbursable rate for Air Force One — including fuel, flight consumables, aircraft overhaul and engine overhaul — cost $176,393 per hour, according to the U.S. Air Force. The rate was $165,000 per hour in 2019, according to the Pentagon, as reported by USA TODAY.
Post reporter Philip Bump reported Trump made 19 trips to Mar-a-Lago between January 2017 and February 2019.
“If we, therefore, assume a blanket average of $3.4 million per trip, regardless of duration, the total the government has spent on Trump’s trips to the resort tops $64 million,” Bump wrote. Flights alone accounted for $40 million of Bump’s estimate, the Post’s Glenn Kessler reported.
Bump also observed that Trump played golf during 31 of his first 78 weekends in office at various locations around the world. A weekend stay at his resort in Turnberry in July 2018 cost more than $1.1 million, according to a report released by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Trump tweeted he golfed at the resort between meetings with NATO members and Russian officials.
A stopover in Doonbeg, Ireland, during a three-day visit to the United Kingdom in 2019, added another $3.6 million in expenses to his international golf outings, according to a report by HuffPost.
As for Trump’s trips to Bedminster: The president owns a house in the New Jersey suburb, so members of the press are not allowed access to the club, according to Trump Golf Count .
“At this point, whenever Trump spends the greater part of a day at Bedminster, we count it as a ‘visit,'” and any allusion to golf or pictures of the president in golf attire counts as a “confirmed golf outing,” she explained.
Trump has played golf during 24 of 96 trips to Bedminster since the beginning of his presidency, according to a table maintained by TrumpGolfCount.com.
But Kessler questioned the practice of attributing travel costs for the president and his support staff exclusively to golf. Such estimates “flimsy” and “misleading,” he said.
“Much of the logistical support for a president must follow him wherever he goes, so if the president has one four-hour round of golf in a 24-hour day, is it fair to attribute all of those daily security and logistical costs to that round of golf? We would say no,” Kessler wrote in a July 2018 fact-check piece.
Our rating: Missing context
We rate this claim MISSING CONTEXT, based on our research. References to Trump’s golf trips have been well-documented throughout his presidency. The president, himself has admitted to visiting golf resorts owned by the Trump Organization while traveling abroad. But the reason for his official travel is at the discretion of the White House. Much of the costs for golf outings and resort stays are estimates. Absent that confirmation, we cannot say with certainty this number is true.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, May 29, 2019: “Donald Trump slammed Obama for using Air Force One for election campaigning. Now he does the same”
- HuffPost, June 7, 2019: “Trump’s $3.6 Million Ireland Detour Brings Taxpayer-Funded Golf Tab To $105.8 million”
- House Committee on Oversight and Reform, March 23: “New Report Shows Taxpayers Foot the Bill for President Trump’s $1 Million Weekend Golf Trip to His Resort in Scotland”
- General Services Administration, accessed Oct. 28: State Department receipts
- Trump Golf Count, accessed Oct. 27: “Frequently Asked Questions”
- Trump Golf Count, accessed Oct. 27: “President Trump’s Golf Outings”
- United States Government Accountability Office, accessed Oct. 27: “PRESIDENTIAL TRAVEL Secret Service and DOD Need to Ensure That Expenditure Reports Are Prepared and Submitted to Congress”
- The Washington Post, July 20, 2018: “Trump says golf is his ‘primary form of exercise.’ We talked to an expert about how effective that is.”
- The Washington Post, June 5, 2019: “Trump to stay at Doonbeg, his money-losing golf course threatened by climate change”
- Donald J. Trump July 14, 2018 tweet
- USA TODAY, Sept. 6, 2019: “House Democrats investigating Vice President Mike Pence’s stay at Trump resort in Ireland”
- Time Magazine, accessed Oct. 28: “Top 10 Best Cabinet Members”
- USA TODAY, June 12, 2017: “President Trump crashes wedding at his N.J. golf club”
- USA TODAY, June 20, 2018: “Trump’s Mar-a-Lago visits cost Coast Guard nearly $20M”
- USA TODAY, April 18, 2020: “Trump’s Mar-a-Lago furloughs all 153 ‘nonessential’ employees during coronavirus pandemic”
- Jim Sciutto Sept. 5 tweet
- CNN, May 25: “Fact check: Trump has spent far more time at golf clubs than Obama had at same point”
- The Washington Post, July 27, 2018: “Have U.S. taxpayers spent $72 million on Trump’s golf outings?”
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