Accuracy in Media

President Trump is making his seventh presidential trip this weekend to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. That has Democrats and the liberal media complaining about the cost to taxpayers of these frequent trips, even though there is no official cost estimate at this time.

According to the Associated Press, the most frequently cited number for each trip is $3 million, which was cited in a government report for a trip President Obama made to Palm Beach, Florida. But the author of the report has told the AP that applying the same figure to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips is a mistake.

Here are the facts according to the AP:

“As fate would have it, the estimate for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips is based on a 2013 weekend golf trip Obama took to Palm Beach.

Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, asked the GAO to probe the Obama outing, and its report finally came out last fall.

The GAO’s bottom line for that trip, not including regular White House personnel costs as well as some classified expenses, was $3.6 million. But the author of that report, Brian Lepore, says that figure shouldn’t be applied to Trump’s travel.

‘It’s hard to substitute one trip for another, even if the destination is the same,’ Lepore said. Each time a president travels, the Defense Department must airlift equipment such as the protective limousines, security vehicles and occasionally helicopters from various military bases around the country.

A base in Illinois is charged with moving the inventory around, and costs vary widely depending on which base it comes from, he said.

Another problem with extrapolating from the October 2016 GAO report is that it included a leg from Washington to Chicago, where Obama gave an economic speech before heading to Palm Beach for a long weekend of golf.

Obama was only in Chicago for a few hours, but costs pile up because each destination triggers the need for the Secret Service to prepare and protect the site and the Defense Department to move the equipment involved.

Another significant cost-driver, GAO noted, is the per-hour cost of military aircraft, such as the president’s plane, Air Force One. So it’s not just a matter of slicing off a few hundred thousand dollars to come up with the $3 million estimate.

‘If you take out Chicago, that just means the equipment is going to have to come from other bases,’ Lepore said. Sometimes that means more money, sometimes less.”

Judicial Watch—which estimated that Obama spent $96 million on travel during his two terms—pegs each of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago visits as costing $1 million.

The GAO will be pricing out Trump’s Florida visits at the request of Democrats. But that could take months or years, based on how long it took to gather the Obama figures.

Until then, the Democrats and the media should refrain from using the inaccurate $3 million cost-per-trip figure, but that’s unlikely to happen given their mutual hatred of the president.

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