The Secret Service is obligated to protect the president and vice president and offer protection to their immediate families, but President Trump isn't obligated to drain the Secret Service coffers, as USA Today reported he is earlier this week. More than 1,000 agents have already hit their yearly caps on salary and overtime protecting Trump and his 18-member family as they travel the world on business and leisure, Secret Service Director Randolph "Tex" Alles said. On Wednesday, USA Today followed up with former agents and ethics experts, and they pointed to at least three big things Trump could do to ease the Secret Service's financial burden.
First: Spend more time at the White House. Trump's seven presidential visits to Mar-a-Lago, five stays at his New Jersey golf club, and one trip to his Trump Tower home have cost the Secret Service dearly, even if they're inexpensive for Trump himself. Trump isn't legally allowed to comp the agents' rooms, former Secret Service Director W. Ralph Basham tells USA Today, so maintaining a presence at his luxury properties is expensive. Second, if Trump needs to leave Washington, he could go to Camp David, as other presidents have since the 1940s, to save the Secret Service money and stress. Each trip to Mar-a-Lago, for example, costs taxpayers an estimated $3 million.
Finally, while Trump cannot pay for his Secret Service protection, he can ask his adult children to decline theirs and hire private security. Eric and Don Jr.'s business travels for Trump's company, and Ivanka and Tiffany's vacations have cost taxpayers at least several hundreds of thousands of dollars. "I don't see any way for the government to avoid these security expenditures, unless the family declines the protection services," said Scott Amey, chief counsel at the Project on Government Oversight. Not everyone thinks that's fair. "At the end of the day, that's not an issue anybody should be telling a president or his family how to live their lives," said former Secret Service executive Arnette Heintze.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
But the ethicists are on board. "You've got this mentality that they're somehow nobility and entitled to have the American people pay for their vacations and their boondoggles and fun, when in reality it's their responsibility to serve us," Walter Shaub, recent head of the Office of Government Ethics, tells USA Today. "Welcome to government service." You can read more ideas at USA Today.
Create an account with the same email registered to your subscription to unlock access.