President Donald Trump will attend two events this weekend: a charity ball at Mar-A-Lago, his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, and a Super Bowl gathering at his Trump International Golf Club in Palm Beach.
Trump will spend Saturday and Sunday nights attending private events where his presence, and the attendant press coverage of the president, stand to directly benefit the properties’ bottom lines. Given that Trump earns income from both of these properties, his decision ― as president ― to attend events there creates the appearance that he may be using the presidency to increase the visibility, prestige and financial value of his clubs.
This is the first weekend the president has spent in Florida since his inauguration last month. According to the White House, Trump also plans at least three weekend phone calls with foreign leaders from New Zealand, Italy and Ukraine.
Trump is scheduled to spend Saturday night at the International Red Cross Ball, held this year at Mar-A-Lago. The annual event has been hosted at Mar-A-Lago in the past. According to news reports and a review of Red Cross tax forms, the organization pays fees for such facilities, and catering that can run to more than $300,000.
Below, Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attended the Red Cross Gala at Mar-A-Lago in 2008.
Trump will spend Sunday evening at his Trump International Golf Club, a members-only facility that hosts top-level pro golf tournaments. He’ll attend what the White House billed as, “The President watches the Super Bowl.”
It was unclear exactly what the Super Bowl event would entail, and who would be invited to attend. The White House did not respond to questions late Friday from The Huffington Post.
According to Trump’s May 2016 personal financial disclosures, the Trump International Golf Club had income of more than $17.5 million the previous year, while Mar-A-Lago raked in $30 million in membership fees and event costs. Both clubs offer memberships, as well event spaces and world-class golf courses, all of which are available to the public, albeit for top dollar.
Trump traveled to Mar-A-Lago on Friday afternoon aboard Air Force One ― a flight that was paid for with taxpayer funds. White House spokesman Sean Spicer repeatedly referred to the 126-room mansion this week as the “Winter White House,” suggesting Mar-A-Lago would be a Trump administration site of official business, and not simply a weekend retreat. Mar-A-Lago recently announced that it had doubled its membership fees, from $100,000 to $200,000.
According to the White House press guidance, Trump’s calls with foreign leaders this weekend will be closed to reporters. But both events at his clubs will be open to the press pool that travels with the president, and will be covered by the same photographers and reporters who cover the White House.
Both events at Trump’s clubs will take place against the backdrop of the president’s unprecedented refusal to divest himself financially from his real estate and hotel empire. Instead, Trump has promised that his sons will manage the company while he is president, and will not discuss the business with him. This is far less than any previous president has done to avoid business conflicts, and well short of what Trump’s own Cabinet members are required to do.