The bill just for President Trump’s air travel to the political rallies he attended in support of midterm candidates is $17 million, only 0.7% of which has thus far been repaid to taxpayers by Trump’s campaign or the Republican party, which are supposed to bear such costs for political trips by the president. It is unclear how much of that $17 million will eventually be repaid to taxpayers, but it appears likely to be far less than the total, based on the rules determined for such reimbursement. According to Quartz:
US president Donald Trump flew to more than 40 political rallies in the months leading up to the 2018 mid-term elections, to coax his loyal fans to come out to the polls for Republican candidates. A Quartz analysis of Trump’s travel schedule and the latest Department of Defense operating figures for Air Force One aircraft suggests the tab for the air travel alone was $17 million. The costs so far have been borne almost completely by US taxpayers. How much of the estimated $17 million bill taxpayers will ultimately eat is still unclear…According to FEC filings, the Trump 2020 presidential campaign committee has made eight payments to the US Treasury marked “TRAVEL EXPENSES: AIR,” for a total of $112,667.90 since the rallies started in March…That means US taxpayers may have so far been reimbursed for about 0.7% of the cost of the president’s flights to political rallies, presuming the payments indeed relate to the midterm events.
Neither the White House, the Republican National Committee, nor Trump’s reelection campaign have indicated what portion of this $17 million they will ultimately pay, or how much of other related expenses, such as Secret Service protection for Trump while he is performing political, rather than official, duties, will be reimbursed to the U.S. Treasury, i.e. the taxpayers. The White House is expected, however, to come up with a formula (that’s right, math) to ensure that taxpayers are not left footing the bill for Trump’s political activities. For flights, generally the reimbursement is “based on the fair market cost of a charter flight to the same destination on an aircraft of similar size, divided by the number of so-called ‘campaign travelers’ on the plane”, according to Quartz, but the costs associated with Trump’s modes of transport, including Air Force One and Marine One, no doubt are far in excess of what a charter flight on other similar aircraft would cost.
The White House, RNC, and Trump’s reelection campaign have all averted answering Quartz‘s questions about the expenses and reimbursement. Another difficulty particular to Trump is that his tendency to wander off-topic means that he will wander into making political comments at events that are meant to be official in nature, and the political portion of any such trip is not supposed to be paid for by the taxpayer. According to Quartz:
Jessica Ditto, the White House spokesperson who handled questions about Trump’s campaign rallies this summer, referred all inquiries to the president’s re-election campaign, which didn’t respond to any questions. The RNC press office said someone would answer emailed questions, but there was no response to multiple requests over several days..But “the general rule is the campaign or party has to reimburse the White House for the cost of the political portion of the trip,” says Brendan Fischer, the director of federal reform for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group on campaign ethics and finance issues…“It is particularly difficult with Trump,” though, Fischer says, because the president can turn an “official” event into a “political” event unexpectedly. “He goes off script, and what’s supposed to be about policy and the White House agenda can be a political event” in which Trump “starts talking about elections, or electing more Republicans,” Fischer says. In those cases, US taxpayers should be reimbursed for the travel, he adds.
Another expense, but not one subject to reimbursement, is that the enormous amount of time Trump spent on political activities for the midterms meant he was not doing his official duties during that time. It remains to be seen if the expenses that are supposed to be reimbursed by the RNC or Trump’s reelection campaign actually will be reimbursed in full or anywhere close to in full.