Probe into Trump’s conflicts of interest shows US Secret Service was overbilled

Before the corrupt businessman left the White House, U.S. Secret Service agents were billed as much as $1,185 per room while staying at hotels owned by former president Donald Trump, according to the House Oversight Committee.

As part of the panel’s ongoing investigation into Trump’s conflicts of interest, it released new documents that indicate that Trump-owned properties repeatedly charged the Secret Service nightly rates far in excess of government per diem rates.

Records show Trump’s company charged the Secret Service as much as five times the government rate for agents to stay overnight at his hotels while protecting him and his family.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chairwoman of the committee, sent a letter to Kimberly Cheatle, director of the United States Secret Service, requesting a full accounting of the agency’s spending at Trump-owned properties during Trump’s presidency.

“The exorbitant rates charged to the Secret Service and agents’ frequent stays at Trump-owned properties raise significant concerns about the former President’s self-dealing and may have resulted in a taxpayer-funded windfall for former President Trump’s struggling businesses,” wrote Maloney.

Despite repeated claims that the former President would use his businesses to save the federal government money, including representations from Eric Trump that government employees traveling with former President Trump “stay at our properties for free,” documents obtained by the committee show that the Secret Service was charged rates in excess of the government rate at least 40 times from January 20, 2017 to September 15, 2021.

According to the congressional committee’s review, U.S. taxpayers paid the president’s company at least $1.4 million for Secret Service agents’ stays at Trump properties for his and his family’s protection, but Maloney says the data does not appear to be complete.

Since February 12, 2020, Congress has been seeking information about government expenditures at Trump Organization properties, but the Secret Service produced incomplete responses that do not provide a complete picture.

The Secret Service has yet to provide a complete list of all spending at Trump-owned properties and still does not appear to be able to account for every instance the agency paid excessive nightly rates at the former President’s resorts, hotels, and clubs.

“Given the longstanding concerns surrounding the former President’s conflicts of interest and efforts to profit off the presidency, the Committee has a strong interest in obtaining a complete accounting of federal government spending at Trump properties,” wrote Maloney. “The Committee continues to examine potential legislation to prevent presidential self-dealing and profiteering, as well as to curb conflicts of interest by ensuring that future presidents are prevented from exercising undue influence on Secret Service spending.”

The records show that in 40 cases the Trump Organization billed the Secret Service far higher amounts than the approved government rate.

The records contradict the repeated claim made by Eric Trump, the president’s son and the Trump Organization’s executive vice president, that the family’s company often gave the Secret Service agents the hotel rooms “at cost” or sometimes free, providing steep discounts for the security team to stay at Trump properties.

Eric Trump disputed that the Trump Organization profited off Secret Service stays at his family’s properties.

“Any services rendered to the United States Secret Service or other government agencies at Trump-owned properties were at their request and were either provided at cost, heavily discounted, or for free,” said Eric Trump. “The company would have been substantially better off if hospitality services were sold to full-paying guests, however, the company did whatever it took to accommodate the agencies to ensure they were able to do their jobs at the highest levels.”

During Trump’s presidency, Secret Service supervisors frequently asked for special waivers to let the agency pay far more than the government-approved nightly rate for a hotel in D.C. — usually $195 to $240. Instead, they paid the higher costs the Trump Organization was charging.

Maloney stressed that the Secret Service continues to pay the Trump Organization while protecting Trump since he left office, and she is concerned by reports of excessive fees the agency is charged for the former president’s travels.

Her committee obtained records that stretch over his four-year presidency and continue from President Biden’s inauguration to September 2021.

Maloney noted in her letter to the Secret Service director that records turned over to her committee do not include the agency’s payments for a series of visits to Trump’s private club at Mar-a-Lago; some visits to his property at Bedminster, N.J.; and for stays at Trump properties outside the United States during frequent foreign travel by Trump and his family.

Trump’s conflicts of interest are just the tip of the iceberg among the former president’s legal nightmares.

The Trump Organization is now under criminal investigation after the New York Attorney General joined the Manhattan DA’s probe into Trump’s business dealings and finances. Up until this point, the AG investigation into the former president was a civil probe.

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump, the Trump Organization, senior managers including his three adult children, and involved entities for engaging in years of financial fraud to obtain a host of economic benefits.

As a consequence of these violations, OAG is seeking, among other relief, to: 1) permanently bar former President Trump; Donald Trump, Jr.; Ivanka Trump; and Eric Trump from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York state; 2) bar Trump and the Trump Organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years; 3) award disgorgement of all financial benefits obtained through the persistent fraudulent practices, estimated to total $250 million.

James also asked a judge for a preliminary injunction to prohibit the Trump Organization from transferring any assets without court approval, claiming the company “appears to be taking steps to restructure its business to avoid” liability in the massive lawsuit filed by her office.

Trump succeeded in slowing a separate investigation into his retention of classified information at Mar-a-Lago, a potential violation of the Espionage Act with deep and severe legal consequences.

A wide-ranging Justice Department criminal investigation touches nearly all of the loser’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, from making false statements and trying to intimidate state officials responsible for counting votes to inciting a violent mob of terrorists that stormed the Capitol Building while Congress was certifying the results.

Trump may succeed in slowing a separate investigation into the retention of classified information at Mar-a-Lago, his potential exposure to legal consequences is deep and threatening. Trump has not been charged with a crime in either probe.

Trump has not yet been charged with a crime in any probe, but observers believe that his indictment is inevitable.

Judge Raymond Dearie, acting as the court-appointed special master over documents seized from Mar-a-Lago, expressed frustration with defense lawyers for Trump.

“I don’t want to be dealing with nonsense objections, nonsense assertions, especially when I have one month to deal with who knows how many assertions,” said Dearie of the Eastern District of New York.

The Justice Department is separately already working through about 100 records marked as classified that were seized at Mar-a-Lago and split out from Dearie’s work, and the agency is also challenging at a federal appeals court the special master process on the whole.

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