Trump's first 4 trips to Mar-a-Lago cost taxpayers $13.6 million, watchdog finds

In this April 15, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Four of President Trump's trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort in south Florida during his first months in office cost the U.S. government approximately $13.6 million in taxpayer funds, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The government watchdog group was tasked with compiling expenses incurred by different federal agencies to finance security, logistics and other resources for the president's four trips to Mar-a-Lago from Feb. 3 to March 5, 2017. According to the GAO's findings, about $10.6 million of the funds covered operating costs for aircraft and boats, and $3 million was spent to pay for transportation, housing and meals for personnel accompanying the president.

Most of the expenses, the report found, were incurred by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Defense. The watchdog group did not consider the salaries and benefits of staff members who made the trips since they "would be paid regardless of whether the President was traveling."

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Additionally, the report found that three trips made on behalf of the Trump Organization by the president's eldest sons — Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump — to Uruguay, the Dominican Republic and the United Arab Emirates cost taxpayers approximately $396,000 in pay for Secret Service agents.

Democratic lawmakers, including Sens. Gary Peters and Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Elijah Cummings, said they requested the study after news reports detailed some of the significant costs of the president's multiple trips to his Florida resort shortly after his inauguration. They quickly seized on the report's findings to denounce what they called Mr. Trump's "pattern" of "wasteful spending."

"This alarming report captures a snapshot of the tens of millions of dollars President Trump spends to travel to his Palm Beach resort – all at taxpayer expense – including government funds that are paid directly to a business in which the president himself has a financial interest," Peters, Feinstein and Cummings wrote in a joint statement Tuesday. "This is part of a troubling pattern of wasteful spending and serious abuse of tax dollars by the administration. We will keep investigating this issue to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used effectively and appropriately."