‘Sexy, but not necessarily accurate’: Fact checkers comb through MSM reports on Trump’s travel costs

Another weekend approaches and the prospect of a trip by President Trump to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida has liberals seeing green.

Watchdogs on the left have repeatedly criticized the president for his travel budget, citing a report that estimates each trip to the Palm Beach estate costs taxpayers $3 million.

But the author of that report told The Associated Press that those findings can’t be applied to Trump’s travel.

A government office is working on estimating the cost though the Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting the president, and the Department of Defense, which transports presidential vehicles between destinations, have not provided costs of the trips to Mar-a-Lago.

According to research by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch, the estimated cost for each Mar-a-Lago visit is closer to only $1 million.

CNN had reported that the president’s travel budget is “on pace to surpass 8 years of Obama’s travel spending in 1 year.”

CNN estimated Trump’s six visits to his private Palm Beach club to total around $21.6 million. But that number was based on the cost of one trip Obama took to Palm Beach in 2013 — $3.6 million – and multiplying that figure by the six Trump visits.

“Given variations in each trip, estimating the security costs around a presidential trip is difficult. But a 2016 Government Accountability Office report about a four-day trip Obama took to Florida in 2013 — one similar to Trump’s trips — found the total cost to the Secret Service and Coast Guard was $3.6 million,” CNN reported.

The network also cited a report by Judicial Watch to calculate Obama’s total of $97 million over eight years.

“Obama, by contrast, spent just under $97 million on travel in his eight years as president, according to documents reviewed by Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog,” CNN reported. “These trips included personal trips – including ski trips to Aspen and the Obama’s annual family vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts — and work trips, like a visit to Everglades National Park on Earth Day in 2015.”

However, the author of that 2016 GAO report used by CNN and others like CBS and Politico, said the trips by Trump and Obama are not similar.

“It’s hard to substitute one trip for another, even if the destination is the same,” Brian Lepore told the AP.

 

“Each time a president travels,” The AP explained, “the Defense Department must airlift equipment such as the protective limousines, security vehicles and occasionally helicopters from various military bases around the country.”

Those using the Obama trip estimate also left out an important factor in the cost of the former president’s trip, as indicated by the AP report:

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.

Also, Judicial Watch had estimated flight time and typical Secret Service costs, leaving out airlifting equipment, to arrive at its $1 million figure.

With Trump’s seventh presidential visit to Mar-a-Lago this weekend, Twitter users agreed it would be a good time for some corrections to be issued.

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Frieda Powers

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