Yesterday afternoon, as Donald Trump prepared to leave the White House, the president told reporters, “So we’re going now to the southern White House.” He was referring, of course, to Mar-a-Lago, which is most certainly not the southern White House.
In fact, he really shouldn’t call it that. As regular readers know, Richard Nixon’s California home came to be known as the “Western White House,” and Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush spent a considerable amount of time during their presidencies at their respective ranches, but in each of those cases, presidents had private properties where they had private homes.
Trump’s business operation, on the other hand, now charges $200,000 a person to join a club where members can gain access to the president, members of his team, and in some cases, a front-row seat to foreign-policy talks with international heads of state.
It’s a club the president owns and profits from, all of which made it even more jarring when Trump went on to tell reporters yesterday afternoon:
“I will tell you, and as most of you know, being president has cost me a fortune, and that’s okay with me. I knew that a long time ago. But being president has cost me a fortune – a tremendous fortune like you’ve never seen before, but someday I’ll tell you what that is.”
Some of this phrasing was just weird. He’s lost a fortune unlike anything we’ve ever seen? He wants to keep it secret for some reason? I’m not at all sure what any of this meant.
But even putting that aside, the idea that Trump has somehow made a tremendous sacrifice, agreeing to serve as president despite it costing him “a fortune,” is belied by some of the recent evidence.
Consider, for example, the Washington Post’s recent report on Trump’s company reaping financial rewards from the midterm elections.
The Trump Organization took in $4.2 million from GOP candidates and campaign committees during the last two-year election cycle, according to campaign finance filings. […]
In addition, at least 117 other Republican lawmakers and candidates spent campaign or PAC money at Trump properties. While the Trump hotel in Washington does not appear to have overtaken the traditional fundraising meccas – expensive restaurants close to Capitol Hill – it still took in $1.4 million from Republican candidates and other committees.
To be sure, it’s not as if all of the money from Trump’s properties ends up in the president’s pocket, but some of it does. It’s one of the reasons the Emoluments Clause case is proceeding apace.
It’s possible that, despite all of these revenue streams, the president is still losing “a fortune,” but there’s really only one way to know for sure: he could start doing what every other modern president has done and disclose his tax returns.