President Trump’s side trip to Ireland, which involved very little official business, was primarily a golf trip, costing taxpayers $3.6 million and yet again providing free advertising for a Trump-owned golf property. The resort, Trump International Golf Links, Doonbeg, was even using pictures and video of Trump’s visit to advertise on social media, until questioned by the Huffington Post, at which point they deleted the posts. Jordan Libowitz of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which is suing Trump for alleged violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, said of the advertisements, said of the ads, according to HuffPost, “At this point, it appears that Donald Trump views his presidency as just another way to support his business. On an international trip at taxpayer expense, he stopped by to film a commercial for his Irish golf course, which is advertising the stop explicitly as one by the president of the United States. His own lawyers, in their ‘Conflict of Interest’ white paper, said this would not happen. But at this point, it’s clear all that matters to President Trump is what makes him money.” The part of this quotation in bold may well be the reason why the pictures and video ads were taken down after HuffPost started questioning them.
This Irish side trip brought the total amount taxpayers have spent for Trump’s golf trips so far to $105.8 million, which is made all the more problematic by the fact that Trump golfs almost exclusively at resorts he owns. According to ethics guidelines, Trump is not supposed to be gaining personally, i.e. financially, from his office, but he most certainly is gaining from these golf trips, among other things. Trump had wanted Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to meet with him at his golf resort, but Varadkar’s side had refused, due to the concerns over the overlap of Trump’s official duties and Trump’s business interests. Varadkar’s side wanted to host Trump at an Irish castle instead, but Trump’s side refused that, so they settled for a quick meeting at the airport in Shannon, Ireland, instead. Trump also met briefly with Ireland’s minister for trade, employment, and business at Shannon’s airport, using that meeting in part to discuss, you guessed it, his golf property’s interests. According to HuffPost:
President Donald Trump wrapped up a visit to his Ireland golf resort Friday, in the process adding at least another $3.6 million to a taxpayer-funded golf tab that totals nearly $106 million in just 2 1/2 years. Trump played golf Friday morning and possibly also played Wednesday and Thursday evenings. …Trump claimed as he left the White House on Sunday: “Well, we’re going to be staying at Doonbeg, in Ireland because it’s convenient and it’s a great place. But it’s convenient.” In fact, though, Trump was much closer to Paris and Normandy when he was staying in London for the first two nights of his trip. … With the additional travel costs of flying the planes that were used as Air Force One; the need to transport U.S. Marine Corps helicopters and presidential limousines to Ireland in addition to England and France; and the State Department expenses, the Ireland excursion cost taxpayers at least $3.6 million more than if Trump had stayed in London on Wednesday night and returned to Washington from France on Thursday, according to a HuffPost analysis. That would bring the total for Trump’s golf vacations during his 2 1/2 years in office to $105.8 million.
By HuffPost’s tally, Trump has now spent 181 days in office golfing, all but two of which were at golf resorts he owns (those two days not at Trump-owned properties were spent golfing in Japan with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe). That 181 days is more than twice the number of days President Obama had spent golfing at the comparable point in his presidency, and the expense to taxpayers of Trump’s golfing is three times more than Obama’s, because Trump golfs at his own resorts, many of which are far-flung from the White House, with Trump’s most common golf destination being Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Obama, by contrast, most often golfed at courses on military bases close to Washington, making his golf excursions much less expensive, in significant part because Air Force One was not needed. HuffPost indicates that each Trump trip to Mar-a-Lago costs taxpayers $3.4 million, which each trip to Trump’s golf resort in Bedminster, NJ, costs taxpayers $1.2 million. Hypocrisy is a major issue in this comparison, since Trump as a candidate had criticized Obama for golfing while in office and said that if he were elected, he wouldn’t have time to golf at all, but then he has proceeded to golf twice as much as Obama, to go to far more costly locations to golf, and to benefit his own golf resorts in the process.