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Neighbors Warn Trump Against Trying to Use Mar-a-Lago Resort as Post-Presidency Residence, Threaten Legal Action


Homeowners in Palm Beach, Florida formally warned Donald Trump this week against trying to use his private Mar-a-Lago golf resort as his home residence once he leaves office on Jan. 20, saying the president signed away any legal right to live there in the early 1990s, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

In a demand letter delivered to the town on Tuesday—which was also addressed to the U.S. Secret Service (ex-presidents and first ladies get lifetime protection)—local residents reportedly said that once Trump becomes a former president, they expect Palm Beach authorities to once again enforce a 1993 agreement which changed Mar-a-Lago from a single-family residence to a private club controlled by a Trump-owned corporation. Under the agreement, members are not permitted to stay at the resort for more than 21 days a year or more than seven days consecutively. Additionally, prior to town officials voting to approve the club, Trump’s personal attorney assured the Palm Beach town council that he would not be living on the property.

The president, however, has visited the club a minimum of 30 times, spending at least 130 days at the “Winter White House” during his term in office, per the Post. And after rising to fame as a resident and real estate developer in New York City, Trump registered to vote in Florida earlier this year using Mar-a-Lago as his home address. Indeed, the president made a point to say he was leaving Manhattan and “hated” that he had to make that decision.

“1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House, is the place I have come to love and will stay for, hopefully, another 5 years as we MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, but my family and I will be making Palm Beach, Florida, our Permanent Residence. I cherish New York, and the people of New York, and always will, but unfortunately, despite the fact that I pay millions of dollars in city, state and local taxes each year, I have been treated very badly by the political leaders of both the city and state. Few have been treated worse,” Trump said in Oct. 2019 on Twitter. “I hated having to make this decision, but in the end it will be best for all concerned. As President, I will always be there to help New York and the great people of New York. It will always have a special place in my heart!”

According to the demand letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, the homeowners said local officials must inform President Trump that he shouldn’t move back into Mar-a-Lago if he hopes to “avoid an embarrassing situation” in which he’s forced out of his home in the coming months.

“There’s absolutely no legal theory under which he can use that property as both a residence and a club,” Palm Beach homeowner Glenn Zeitz told the Post, adding, “Basically he’s playing a dead hand. He’s not going to intimidate or bluff people because we’re going to be there.”

But the 1993 agreement is apparently not the only legal barrier keeping the president from living in his private club:

He also signed a document deeding development rights for Mar-a-Lago to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a Washington-based, privately funded nonprofit organization that works to save historic sites around the country. As part of the National Trust deal, Trump agreed to “forever” relinquish his rights to develop Mar-a-Lago or to use it for ‘any purpose other than club use.

While Trump has flouted the terms of his agreements concerning Mar-a-Lago before, the local homeowners and their attorney Reginald Stambaugh appear undeterred, stating that “Palm Beach has many lovely estates for sale, and we are confident President Trump will find one which meets his needs.”

Stambaugh made similar comments in October, after Trump voted for himself in Florida.

“It’s one or the other — it’s a club or it’s your home,” he said. “You can’t have it both ways.”

An unnamed spokesperson for Trump’s business disputed that there is a problem, telling the Post there is “no document or agreement in place that prohibits President Trump from using Mar-a-Lago as his residence.”

[image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.