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Money That Paid for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Trips Could Easily Fund Two Years Worth of Mueller Investigation


President Donald Trump‘s repeat visits to his family-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida have cost the public far in excess of what taxpayers have shelled out for the cost of the investigation led by Robert Mueller so far. In fact, the president’s frequent jaunts to the so-called “Winter White House” could fund well over two years worth of the ongoing Russia probe.

An analysis by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a non-profit government accountability watchdog, from over the weekend makes the comparison plain as day in an infographic posted to Twitter:

Over the past 27-plus months, Trump has visited Mar-a-Lago at least 17 times–for a total of at least 68 days–according to Town & Country Magazine and CREW’s analysis uses a $43.7 million figure for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips but this appears to be a somewhat conservative estimate. CREW’s sources, however, are not listed in the infographic shared above, so Law&Crime did some digging of our own.

Conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch estimates that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips (inclusive of only airfare and Secret Service protection) likely cost the public somewhere in the ballpark of $1 million apiece. By their own admission, Judicial Watch also notes that this number does not include sundry technical necessities like “airlifting equipment such as the presidential limousines.”

So, the true cost of Trump’s airfare and Secret Service protection alone is currently a matter of debate. Suffice to say these costs almost certainly stand at somewhere a bit higher than $17 million. We’ll use this as our baseline number for purposes of discussion.

But that’s not all. There are also additional protection costs necessary to account for.

According to USA Today, Coast Guard costs for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips have ballooned to nearly $20 million as of mid-June of this year. On top of that, there are also local costs that go along with Trump’s love affair with Mar-a-Lago. Palm Beach County alone has spent more than $9 million accommodating President Trump so far. Less than half of that has been paid back directly to the county–courtesy of the federal government; that is, the U.S. general public.

(Other estimates peg the total cost of airfare and Secret Service protection substantially higher—essentially doubling and quadrupling the $17 million figure. According to an extrapolation of numbers originally reported by the Washington Post, Trump’s airfare to Mar-a-Lago was tallied at costing a little over $34 million. Another estimate sourced from the generally reliable Government Accountability Office would place the total cost for airfare and Secret Service protection at $61.2 million total, although this estimate is now recognized as likely over-the-top.)

So, let’s take Judicial Watch’s low-end estimate of $17 million, add in the Coast Guard protection costs of at least $20 million, and then add local protection costs in excess of $9 million. The low-end estimate for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips ends up totaling $46 million, and this still doesn’t account for various other technical necessities.

As of June 1, the special counsel’s Russia investigation has cost $16.7 million. That number equates to roughly 10 1/2 months of work at an average of roughly $1.6 million per month. For efficiency and fairness’ sake, we can easily round Mueller’s costs up to $17 million. But since quite a bit of action has occurred in the Russia probe since summer began, we’ll be even more fair to the president and extrapolate the costs of Mueller’s investigation out an additional two months. That final cost comes out to $19.4 million.

Any way you slice the numbers, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips have cost far more than double what Mueller’s relatively short special counsel investigation has cost the U.S. public.

President Trump has made a habit of attacking the cost of the Mueller probe. When the baseline numbers for the special counsel’s wide-ranging investigation were originally released, Trump tweeted, “A.P. has just reported that the Russian Hoax Investigation has now cost our government over $17 million, and going up fast. No Collusion, except by the Democrats!”

Even if one were to blanch at all of the above spending, it’s worth keeping things in perspective. Not only has Mueller’s investigation moved forward at a furious clip compared to previous special counsel investigations, it’s actually happening on the cheap as well. Aside from the comparison to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips, it’s worth noting that various GOP probes into the presidency of Bill Clinton cost in excess of $70 million.

[image MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images]

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

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