The Government Accountability Office (GAO) late last week agreed to review the costs and security of President Donald Trump’s frequent trips to his private club Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida.
GAO managing director of public affairs Charles Young told TPM on Tuesday that the office “accepted a request from Senators Warren, Whitehouse, and Udall, and Congressman Cummings, to review security and associated site-related travel expenses related to the President’s stays outside the White House at Mar-a-Lago.”
He said that the office “generally” accepts requests for such reviews from members on both sides of the aisle “so long as it is from the relevant committee.”
“No timeframes yet,” Young said.
The GAO said it will look into the kind of security screening used for guests and visitors of the club, how classified information and secure communications are being handled at the club, whether the U.S. Treasury has received any of the profits from hotels owned or operated by Trump and what the Secret Service and Defense Department have done to ensure that fees they are charged for Trump’s trips to the club are “fair and reasonable,” according to a report by the Washington Post.
In February, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member on the House Oversight Committee; and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Tom Udall (D-NM) asked the GAO to review Trump’s activities at Mar-a-Lago.
They referred to a situation that arose when Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the club, when the two leaders decided how to handle breaking news that North Korea had test-fired a ballistic missile in the middle of Mar-a-Lago’s dining area.
“We are deeply concerned by recent reports that the President, his staff, and the Japanese Prime Minister discussed national security matters on ‘full view to fellow diners,’ and reviewed potentially sensitive national security material in apparent violation of security protocols,” they said in a letter.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at the time that Trump and Abe discussed only “press logistics” at the dinner table. He said a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) — a private area to discuss classified information — was already installed at the club.
“There is a SCIF at Mar-a-Lago. And just to be clear, the President was briefed in a SCIF ahead of dinner,” he told reporters. “And after the dinner, the President went back into the SCIF to get a further update from his team. So I’m not really sure why people jumped to conclusions.”
Trump has spent five weekends at Mar-a-Lago since his inauguration. He took a break over the past weekend to visit the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, where his staff told reporters that the President was holding “meetings” — as he rode in a golf cart and wore golf cleats.
— Alex Marshall (@a_r_marshall) March 25, 2017