WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump is yet again set to violate the agreement he signed almost three decades ago with the town of Palm Beach, Florida, by staying more than seven straight days at Mar-a-Lago as of Wednesday evening, potentially jeopardizing his “special exception use” permit to operate the estate as a for-profit club.
As a condition of converting the 118-room mansion from a single-family residence to a social club for which he could sell memberships, Trump agreed there would be no more than 10 guest suites and very restricted stays.
“The use of guest suites shall be limited to a maximum of three (3) non-consecutive seven (7) day periods by any one member during the year,” the Aug. 10, 1993, agreement reads.
Trump himself will have violated the seven-day limit at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday ― just as he did over the winter holidays a year ago with a 16-day stay and in 2017 with a 10-day stay.
It is unclear how the three-visit limit was meant to be interpreted, but Trump visited 10 times in 2017 for a total of 31 nights, eight times in 2018 for 24 nights, eight times in 2019 for 31 nights, and five times this year, staying 19 nights thus far, according to a HuffPost review.
Neither Palm Beach Town Manager Kirk Blouin nor any member of the Palm Beach Town Council responded to HuffPost’s queries on whether the town intended to enforce its agreement with Trump. And neither Trump’s White House nor the Trump Organization ― his family business, which operates Mar-a-Lago ― responded to questions about why Trump was breaking the written agreement that he signed.
Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen said the second question is easy. “Donald Trump thinks that rules and laws are meant to be broken so long as there is a benefit to him,” said Cohen, who served time in federal prison for, among other things, arranging illegal hush-money payments just ahead of the 2016 election to women who had had affairs with Trump.
“You really think that Donald Trump cares about rules or laws? The second you turn your back on him, he does whatever he wants,” Cohen said. “He’s been violating that agreement since the day he signed it.”
It’s unclear, however, why Trump stays at Mar-a-Lago in violation of his deal when he owns three houses in the immediate proximity of the resort: a 10,000-square-foot oceanfront home at 1125 South Ocean Blvd., just north of Mar-a-Lago’s beach club, which he bought from his sister Maryanne Trump Barry in 2018 for $18.5 million; a 6,000-square-foot house across the street at 1094 South Ocean Blvd., worth $10.4 million; and a 3,000-square-foot house just to its west at 124 Woodbridge Road, worth $3.3 million. According to his 2020 financial disclosure, Trump earns rental income from all three homes.
Despite his promise not to live there, Trump also used Mar-a-Lago as his “legal residence” to register to vote and cast ballots in Florida’s March presidential primary, its August primary for other offices, and the November general election. Palm Beach County elections supervisor Wendy Sartory Link previously told HuffPost that it was not her role to police his agreements with the town of Palm Beach, but simply to make sure that Trump was using a valid address.
But while town officials may not care about Trump’s refusal to honor his 1993 deal, some of his neighbors do, particularly in light of reports that he is considering moving to Mar-a-Lago permanently after leaving the White House next month.
“As everyone knows, President Trump is already in violation of the Use Agreement by using Mar-a-Lago in excess of the allotted time. This violation (as well as others on record) will continue without Town intervention,” lawyer Reginald Stambaugh wrote to the town council in a Dec. 15 letter first reported by The Washington Post. “It is the Town Council’s responsibility to right these wrongs and restore safety and security to the neighborhood by upholding its Use Agreement. In order to avoid an embarrassing situation for everyone and to give the president time to make other living arrangements in the area, we trust you will work with his team to remind them of the Use Agreement parameters. Palm Beach has many lovely estates for sale and surely he can find one which meets his needs.”
Mar-a-Lago has been among the Trump properties that he has used to funnel money from Republican donors, U.S. taxpayers and both foreign and domestic special interests into his own pockets during his presidency. The resort doubled its initiation fee from $100,000 to $200,000 after his election in 2016 and saw a spike in memberships. Trump has collected many tens of thousands of dollars from the U.S. government for the Secret Service agents and other federal officials who have stayed with him during his dozens of visits there. And a new HuffPost analysis of all political spending at Trump’s properties during his four years in office found that his campaign and other committees he personally controlled spent $639,031 at Mar-a-Lago, while other Republican candidates and committees spent $104,900 there.