Speed Reads

Winter White House

Trump's presidency 'enhances' membership at his Winter White House, the Mar-a-Lago's manager says

President Trump is spending his third consecutive weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, arriving Friday evening in advance of the campaign-style rally he has scheduled Saturday. The meaning of membership at the luxurious property is the subject of a Saturday feature from one of Trump's media arch-nemeses, The New York Times, which examines the unique circumstances of the "Winter White House":

Historically, of course, American presidents have often been rich men with mansions, who sometimes conducted the people's business in weekend haunts of the wealthy ... But Mr. Trump's weekend White House appears to be unprecedented in American history, as it is the first one with customers paying a company owned by the president, several historians said.

"Mar-a-Lago represents a commercialization of the presidency that has few if any precedents in American history," said Jon Meacham, a presidential historian and Andrew Jackson biographer. "Presidents have always spent time with the affluent," he added. "But a club where people pay you as president to spend time in his company is new. It is kind of amazing." [The New York Times]

Most Mar-a-Lago memberships predate Trump's entrance into politics, and the club only accepts 20 to 40 new members per year, each of whom must be sponsored by a current member. The entry fee is currently $200,000 — it has doubled since Trump's election — plus $14,000 in annual dues. "It enhances [membership] — his presidency does," the Mar-a-Lago's managing director, Bernd Lembcke, told the Times. "People are now even more interested in becoming members. But we are very careful in vetting them."

Trump's middle child, Eric, in an interview "rejected suggestions that his family is offering access to his father and profiting from it," pointing out that the wealthy and well-connected do not need to join the Mar-a-Lago if they wish to lobby the federal government. To presume unethical motives in the president's fondness for conducting state business at his resort "assumes the worst of us and everyone," Eric said, "and that is unfair."

Read the full Times profile here.