"He's trying to hide the details from the public, because he knows how bad it looks," said New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall
President Donald Trump’s private clubs and hotels have charged the Secret Service up to $650 per night while protecting the president during his routine trips to his properties, according to a new report from The Washington Post.
While the Trump administration has said the president’s private business only charges the Secret Service a minimal fee for staying at his properties, federal documents and eyewitness reports demonstrate the president’s clubs and hotels have charged U.S. taxpayers more than $471,000 total since he took office in 2017, according to documents obtained by the newspaper.
“Those charges,” the Post report says, “show that Trump has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government.”
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization claimed the Post‘s story is “total nonsense” and “intentionally misleading.”
“We provide the rooms at cost and could make far more money renting them to members or guests,” the spokesperson told PEOPLE. “To infer that we are profiting is not only inaccurate but an outright lie.”
The Trump Organization did not respond to follow-up questions about specifics on where the Post‘s reporting is inaccurate.
The White House and the Secret Service did not return PEOPLE’s requests for comment about the Post report.
Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Club had charged the Secret Service the $650 per night rate dozens of times in 2017 before it dropped to $396.15 for “dozens more” visits in 2018, the Post reported.
However, in 2019 the president’s son Eric Trump — who helps head the Trump Organization with his brother Donald Trump Jr. — told Yahoo Finance the properties only charge the Secret Service an at-cost fee.
“If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free — meaning, like, cost for housekeeping,” Eric Trump, 36, said last year.
The Post‘s report claims the cost is much higher than the Trumps led the public to believe.
According to receipts the publication obtained from 2017, the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster once charged the Secret Service $17,000 a month for the use of a three-bedroom cottage. The cost was double the price of any other property in the area, according to the Post‘s analysis.
The Trump Organization, which Trump still owns, also charged the U.S. government on days when the president wasn’t staying at the property, the Post reported.
“It is more than a little disconcerting, knowing this is going on, and not knowing what the actual numbers are,” Jordan Libowitz, a communications director for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, told the publication. “That’s kind of crazy that we know the president is benefiting from the presidency, and we do not know how. We do not know how many taxpayer dollars are in his pocket.”
While Trump has spent more than 342 days (a third of his presidency) on trips to his private properties, the Secret Service is supposed to report twice a year to Congress about what it spends on protecting the president, the report noted.
The Secret Service has twice reported those numbers to Congress, despite being required to do so six times during Trump’s presidency, according to the Post. In those two reports, information about Secret Service charges at Trump’s private properties was not provided, the Post said.
The newspaper said its report is based on information acquired through Freedom of Information Act requests and personal accounts from government officials.
Democrats in the Senate have pushed for spending numbers to be released to Congress. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the administration wishes to delay the release of that information until December 2020 at the earliest — one month after the 2020 presidential election.
“They’ve really stonewalled us,” New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall told the Post. “He’s trying to hide the details from the public, because he knows how bad it looks. That’s the truth of it. He’s a billionaire, but we’re spending millions of dollars to support his for-profit clubs and for-profit businesses.”