Thousands of US taxpayers’ dollars flowed into the coffers of US President Donald Trump’s Co Clare hotel in the months following his inauguration, the Irish Examiner can reveal.
Documents seen by this newspaper show that the US State Department approved invoices totalling almost $28,000 (€24,000) for Secret Service visits to the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg in early 2017.
The Secret Service activity coincided with a visit to Clare by Mr Trump’s son Eric in April 2017.
Critics say the expenditure is part of a wider pattern whereby Mr Trump’s businesses have profited from US taxpayer funds.
However, the US State Department has defended the expenditure, and said it has not afforded the Trump Organization preferential treatment.
Department of State Charge Card Records, which detail spending at Trump properties, show four separate charges paid to Doonbeg in early 2017 totalling $27,724.32, almost €24,000.
Two charges totalling $16,733.86 were made on March 13, 2017, less than two months after Mr Trump’s inauguration, while documents also refer to another two charges totalling $10,990.46.
The records were obtained by Property of the People, a US-based transparency advocacy group that in turn gave the documents to the Irish Examiner.
The group’s wider work has shown that over $344,000 in US taxpayers’ money has been spent at Trump properties around the world, something it claims is in violation of a constitutional provision that aims to prevent any president of the day from receiving state or federal funds beyond their salary.
“Donald Trump views the American public as a bunch of marks waiting to be fleeced,” said Property of the People co-founder, Ryan Shapiro.
“Due to his refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, Donald Trump has turned the American presidency into a racket.”
Property of the People staff attorney, Gunita Singh, said their work through freedom of information requests and litigation has repeatedly revealed “blatant financial conflicts of interest resulting in the transfer of taxpayer dollars to Trump properties and likely constitutional violations”.
“Property of the People will aggressively continue our FOIA work exposing kleptocracy at the highest reaches of the American government, whether this theft occurs in the US, Ireland, or anywhere else in the world Trump seeks to convert the presidency into profit.”
A State Department spokesperson denied there was anything untoward about the payments to Doonbeg.
The spokesperson told the Irish Examiner that the State Department frequently assists other US agencies, including the Secret Service, with “transportation arrangements and in making hotel bookings overseas” and that the cost for those hotels rooms and additional transportation expenses are borne by the other agency.
“The Department of State approaches matters involving Trump properties and businesses the same way as we approach matters involving other similarly-situated companies; we do not afford the Trump Organization preferential treatment,” the spokesperson said.
“Department employees are routinely counselled on federal ethics law and on the importance of avoiding even the appearance that department resources are misused for the benefit of any outside organisations or private interests.”
The State Department referred queries on the reason for the expenditure to the US Secret Service, which declined to comment.
“For operational security reasons, the Secret Service cannot discuss specifically or in general terms the means, methods, resources, costs, or numbers utilised to carry out our protective responsibilities,” a Secret Service spokesperson told this paper.
However, the documents obtained by Property of the People show that some, if not all, of the spend related to visits to Clare by Mr Trump’s son Eric.
Eight entries on the spending logs seen by this newspaper referencing Doonbeg come with the description, “Hotel accommodation support E Trump Visit”.
Eric Trump was spotted playing golf in Clare earlier this week, amid a Secret Security presence.