Some members of President Trump’s exclusive Florida clubs were invited to tour Air Force One last year, BuzzFeed News reports, further merging the president’s political life and business interests.
Buzzfeed obtained invitations for the tours and cross checked them with documents it received through the Freedom of Information Act. According to its investigation, two tours for the club members were scheduled at Atlantic Aviation FBO at Palm Beach International for the afternoon of Feb.18, 2017, just a few hours before Trump held his first 2020 campaign rally at the nearby Orlando-Melbourne International Airport hangar.
According to the documents, Buzzfeeds reports 14 people were scheduled to attend the tours. The names of these individuals were redacted, but email addresses show eight had relations with the Arrigo Automotive Group, a car dealership in the West Palm Beach area.
Joe Arrigo, head of the Arrigo Automotive Group, and his family are longtime members of both Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and the Trump International Golf Club. CNBC reported that Mar-a-Lago has a $200,000 initiation fee and roughly $14,000 in annual fees per member. Trump’s International Golf Club reportedly has a $250,000 initiation fee, plus $30,000 in annual fees.
Buzzfeed could not confirm that the Arrigo family or other Trump club members attended the Air Force One tours. It’s common practice for presidents to invite family, friends, and even donors to tour the aircraft, but these club members would have paid thousands of dollars in club fees to the Trump family.
“This is something that has been done in past administrations going back years and is not out of the ordinary,” Stephanie Grisham, then a spokeswoman for the White House told Buzzfeed. She added that if the invitation was sent to long-time club members, “then they are also most likely longtime friends of the President. You have to keep in mind that Mar-a-Lago has been the President’s home for many years.”
Membership at Trump’s various clubs has become even more exclusive since the start of his presidency. Mar-a-Lago’s initiation fee doubled shortly after his election, with members now getting a chance to dine near the country’s Commander-in-Chief.
“This type of naked profiteering off of a government office is what I would expect from King Louis XVI or his modern kleptocratic equivalents, not an American president,” ethics attorney Norm Eisen told CNBC last year.