A fun perk of creating and maintaining the TrumpGolfCount website has been the occasional emails I receive from members of the press. I confess to being a bit star-struck when it comes to the reporters whose work I read, even if I've heard somewhere that they're the "enemy of the people."
So you can imagine my excitement the other day when I received an email from Glenn Kessler, editor of the Washington Post's "Fact Checker" column, alerting me to a new Government Accountability Office report detailing costs incurred by the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security for trips Trump had made to Mar-a-Lago in early 2017. Based on that report, Philip Bump of the Washington Post estimates that trips to Mar-a-Lago alone have cost more than $64 million, a figure very close to our current TrumpGolfCount estimate for those same trips of $60 million. Glenn also let me know that he had updated his article about the TrumpGolfCount estimates to lower our "Pinocchio" rating from three Pinocchios to one. Made my day!
Estimating the cost of Presidential travel has long been a difficult endeavor, even before Donald Trump established his habit of regular weekends in Palm Beach, Florida and Bedminster, New Jersey. So when I first began tracking the President's visits to golf clubs, I refused to make wild guesses as to how many American tax dollars were being spent on his weekend jaunts. People kept asking the question, though. Surely flying to other states, bringing Secret Service, etc., was resulting in all kinds of government waste!
So I tried. Philip Bump of the Washington Post had recently made some estimates of the hourly cost of operating Air Force One and its support aircraft. Then, FEMA announced that state and local law enforcement agencies would be reimbursed by the Federal government for costs for protecting the President while he traveled to places like Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago. So, I pulled some numbers together, conservatively, and created a simple cost model.
How accurate was that initial model? Well, in late 2017, it required an initial adjustment when I realized that not all local law enforcement costs were for golf trips. Then, in July of 2018, the Fact Checker awarded the model "Three Pinocchios". Boy, was my ego taking a bruising! For a long time, there just didn't seem to be enough publicly available data on travel costs to be precise about what the true costs are, but then, the GAO report came through, and now we have a clearer picture of just how much money is being spent. Seems the initial estimate was too low!
Watch for another announcement as TrumpGolfCount rolls out a new cost model using the better cost estimates provided by the GAO. Although I can't be sure, it's looking like the new figures will indeed be higher. And to think Mr. Trump complains about the Mueller investigation. Sad!
All the best,