Republican Sen. Joni Ernst told constituents at an Iowa town hall on Tuesday that she wishes President Donald Trump “would spend more time in Washington, DC,” and less at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump has so far spent seven of his 13 weekends as president at the resort, where has hosted two foreign leaders — Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — attended presidential and campaign events, and made 15 trips to golf courses he owns in the area.
Ernst said she “agreed” with the concerns of a constituent who asked her about the president’s travel, saying she’d like to see more official government business conducted at the White House.
“That’s what we have the White House for,” Ernst said. “We would love to see more of those State Department visits in Washington, DC.”
The trips to Florida have cost American taxpayers at least $US20 million so far, according to CNN. Trump is on pace to spend more on travel during his first year as president than President Barack Obama did during his eight years in office.
At the request of congressional Democrats, the Government Accountability Office is currently reviewing the costs associated with Trump’s trips to Palm Beach.
Ernst added that she believes “the Florida issue” is also a concern for others in the Republican caucus.
“That is something I think that has been bothering not just me, but some other members of our caucus,” she said. “So I think that is going to be a topic of discussion that we have when we get back to Washington, DC.”
Eric Trump, who is running the Trump organisation with his brother, Donald Jr., recently told The Independent that Mar-a-Lago, which the president has dubbed the “winter White House,” provides “a very effective tool” for his father to “get to know” world leaders.
But the administration has faced widespread criticism over cost, ethics, and security concerns.
On January 1, Mar-a-Lago’s membership fee doubled to $US200,000. In February, a paying Mar-a-Lago member posted photos on social media of Abe and Trump’s aides being briefed on a North Korean missile test in the resort’s dining room. The photos provoked concern that sensitive or classified information had been made vulnerable by the public nature of the meeting, which the White House subsequently sought to dismiss.
The GAO is also currently examining how classified information is protected at the resort, as well as what kind of security the members and guests are subjected to.
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