- A Trump lawyer clashed with neighbours Monday over whether the ex-president could live at Mar-a-Lago.
- Neighbours say it can’t be considered a residence and he shouldn’t live there.
- Trump’s attorney threatened more chaos if he moved to an adjacent property.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
As the Senate on Tuesday weighed whether to convict former President Donald Trump on impeachment charges in Washington, DC, another body of elected officials sat down to determine his fate hundreds of miles away.
Top officials in Palm Beach, Florida, met on Zoom to determine whether Trump would be permitted to continue living in Mar-a-Lago, the members-only club he purchased in 1985 where he moved to after his presidential term ended in January.
Ever since Trump changed his legal residence from New York to Florida in 2019, his neighbours have openly dreaded him moving there. Some of the neighbours have tried to stop the town of Palm Beach from permitting him to use Mar-a-Lago as his permanent residence, citing a 1993 agreement Trump signed, and evict him.
The agreement, Insider’s Thomas Colson reported, transformed it from a residence to a private club and forbids guests from staying there for more than “three non-consecutive seven day periods” a year.
Mar-a-Lago can be a club or a residence, the neighbours said, but it cannot be both.
‘The mayor of Mar-a-Lago’
On Zoom Monday, Maggie Zeidman, the president of the Palm Beach Town Council, said the governing body would make a decision on the issue in April. She also said she personally believed Trump should be able to continue to reside at Mar-a-Lago.
But at the urging of the town manager Kirk Blouin â€” who said he received “hundreds of emails a day” on the issue â€” the Palm Beach town attorney, John Randolph, held a presentation on the legality of the matter. The council also gave an attorney representing Trump a chance to respond and extended that opportunity to attorneys representing Trump’s neighbours and a group called Preserve Palm Beach.
According to Randolph, the 1993 agreement allows “bona fide employees” to use Mar-a-Lago as “living quarters.” The question, then, is whether Trump is a Mar-a-Lago employee. The restriction over guests wouldn’t apply in that case, he said.
Trump’s attorney at the hearing, John Marion, said the former president was indeed an employee. He said Trump was involved in the club’s finances, evaluated employee performance, and oversaw the property in other ways.
“This guy, he wanders the property like the mayor of the town of Mar-a-Lago,” Marion said of Trump. “He’s ever-present, and he loves it there, and he loves the people that he sees there.”
He also said Trump had stayed at Mar-a-Lago over the course of the past 22 years for longer periods than described under the “guest” restrictions.
“This debate, I think, is silly,” Marion said.
‘A permanent beacon for his more rabid, lawless supporters’
Philip Johnson, the attorney representing Preserve Palm Beach, said he worried that Trump’s residency could welcome some of his more unsavoury supporters.
“We feel that this issue threatens to make Mar-a-Lago into a permanent beacon for his more rabid, lawless supporters,” Johnson said.
He also said giving Trump the power to determine who does and doesn’t count as a Mar-a-Lago employee was irrational and that it would effectively permit him to create his own zoning laws.
“If officers of Mar-a-Lago LLC are permitted to reside at the club, then there’s no limitation as to how many residents will be able to live there since the club controls the number of officers,” Johnson said. “In other words, the town could not limit the number of residents. Does the council want Mar-a-Lago to be a multifamily residence?”
Reginald Stambaugh, the lawyer representing Trump’s neighbours, said the town of Palm Beach had repeatedly violated the resolution over the decades and did not permit his clients to “peacefully enjoy the privacy afforded to others on the island.”
“My clients purchased their homes after the agreement was signed with a reasonable expectation that this legal contract would be honoured and enforced by the town,” he said.
‘A horrible imposition’
Marion appeared sympathetic to the neighbours’ concerns, acknowledging there were “more than 100” Secret Service agents at a time in the area while Trump was president, in addition to sheriff’s officers, barriers, and blocked roadways that amounted to “an imposition to the neighbours” on Woodbridge Road.
But, Marion said, things have gotten better.
“The Secret Service is now limited to about 10 people,” he said. “As of Sunday night a week ago, all of the Secret Service people that had been out and around the property are gone. The barriers have been removed. Things have changed. And I think it’s going to stay that way.”
Some of Trump’s neighbours have suggested he simply move to one of his three other properties near Mar-a-Lago, including one large estate on Woodbridge Road.
Marion told them to be careful what they wished for.
“If former President Trump had to move on to Woodbridge for some reason, there would be barriers across the front of that property,” he said. “There would be guards and Secret Service personnel in front of that roadway. There would be dogs sniffing the vehicles and checking in the vehicles every time a resident on Woodbridge were to go home or leave, or their guests came or left.”
“It would be a horrible imposition for them if they got what they wanted,” he added.