Taxpayers were stuck with a nearly $250,000 bill for Secret Service costs incurred on a pair of business trips taken last February by President Donald Trump's two oldest sons, according to documents released by a watchdog group.
"The Secret Service documents, received through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, shed light on how much taxpayers are paying for trips taken by the heads of the president's private business empire," according to a statement from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a left-leaning advocacy group that has sparred with the Trump administration.
Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who took control of the Trump Organization after their father was elected president, were accompanied by Secret Service agents on a February 2017 trip to Dubai for the opening of a Trump International Golf Club. That trip cost the Secret Service more than $200,000, "including about $125,000 for airfare, $75,000 for hotel rooms and more than $15,000 for 'other' expenses including cell phones, car service and other transportation," CREW said. The group added that Donald Jr. and Eric visited Dubai again in 2018, though that trip cost the Secret Service just $73,000.
Eric Trump also had Secret Service protection when he traveled to the Dominican Republic the same month as the Dubai trip, again on Trump Organization business. As CREW noted, "when compared to the bill taxpayers were stuck with from Dubai, the Dominican Republic trip was a bargain at just more than $30,000 for airfare, hotel rooms, auto rental and additional expenses."
It's not necessarily Donald Jr. and Eric's fault that the Secret Service follows them around, as it's standard practice for the children of presidents to receive protection. Chelsea Clinton was protected, as were Jenna and Barbara, the twin daughters of George W. Bush. After their fathers were out of office, all three presidential daughters also got a period of extended Secret Service protection. Moreover, Barack Obama's daughters, Malia and Sasha, were even shadowed by Secret Service agents during their spring break trips.
As The Atlantic noted when Rep. Steve King (R–Iowa) erupted over Secret Service spending on Sasha and Malia's trips, presidential progeny have been accompanied on their vacations for decades and critics are usually partisan. CREW, which was helmed by Clinton critic-turned-crony David Brock until Dec. 2016, has challenged Trump at every turn, from filing a suit alleging he violated the Emolument Clause, to filing a suit alleging that Trump deleting his tweets violates the Presidential Records Act. It is not surprising that they found yet another reason to criticize the Trump administration.
But CREW also has a point.
Chelsea Clinton was just 12 years old when her father took office, the Bush daughters were 19, and Malia and Sasha were 10 and 7, respectively. Donald Jr. is 40 and Eric is 34; private security for trips to benefit the family empire are a legitimate business expense, and one they should perhaps shoulder on their own.
Secret Service protection is mandatory for presidents and vice presidents, but it's optional for everyone else. If those two want protection when enriching themselves overseas, they should pay for it themselves.