Trump’s Visits to Mar-a-Lago, the ‘Winter White House,’ Under GAO Scrutiny for Costs and Security

November 30, 2018, 9:48 PM UTC

With President Donald Trump expected to spend the holidays at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Democrats are likely to revive their questions about the costs to taxpayers and potential security risks as he mingles with dues-paying members and guests.

Some of the answers may be revealed in two reports from the Government Accountability Office that aren’t yet public.

The watchdog agency has completed a 21-month review of security issues raised by Trump’s visits to the private club that his administration has called “the winter White House.” But public release of the report titled “Presidential Security: Vetting of Individuals and Secure Areas at Mar-a-Lago” has been blocked at least temporarily because it included information deemed sensitive by the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, according to the GAO.

A public version will be completed “in the next few months,” GAO spokesman Chuck Young said in a statement. Next month, the agency is set to release a separate report on travel costs, including trips to Mar-a-Lago, he said.

The security study was requested by Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, and Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse and Tom Udall. The evaluation of travel costs was requested by Cummings, Representative Jackie Speier and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Gary Peters.

Abe Dinner

The lawmakers sought the security review in a February 2017 letter after reports that Trump discussed potentially classified issues with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a dinner in full view of Mar-a-Lago members, guests and staff who lacked security clearances.

The lawmakers asked the GAO to review issues including the level of security screening for guests and staff, whether the administration follows the appropriate protocols for handling classified information at Mar-a-Lago and whether Secret Service and other government costs associated with Trump’s visits are “fair and appropriate.”

Cummings is set to become chairman of the Oversight panel in January, so that may be on the list of oversight hearings he’ll have the power to convene.