Donald Trump smiled as he crashed a wedding at his exclusive New Jersey golf club last weekend, shortly after a gunman posted an anti-immigrant screed online and killed 22 people at a Walmart in Texas.
The president appeared to be in good spirits while waving to the cheering guests and clapping for the bride and groom. It was unclear whether he had yet been briefed on the massacre, which happened just hours before another gunman opened fire on a busy street in Dayton, Ohio.
Still, Mr Trump’s absence from Washington, paired with viral photos of the president celebrating in his club during a weekend of gun violence that left at least 31 dead, sparked a swift backlash from Americans as they called on their politicians to “do something” about gun violence.
But this weekend’s trip to Bedminster, New Jersey, at the start of an extended break, is nothing new: the president has regularly flown from the White House to his private resorts and exclusive golf clubs. He is now beginning a 10-day retreat, where he is expected to golf throughout. All the while he has been visiting his own resorts, Mr Trump has contributed to a major scandal: an enormous, ever-growing price tag for taxpayers due to his golfing habits.
The US Secret Service has now spent over $1m (£829,600) to protect the president during golf outings at his private clubs in Florida, Washington and New Jersey, according to American Bridge 21st Century, a research group that has tracked government spending at Trump properties and shared its findings with The Independent.
The figure amounts to $1,123,305, and includes everything from $529,265 that the agency spent on golf carts, to $579,440 for portable restrooms, mobile offices, scaffolding and ballistic glass.
It might be surprising that the 45th president has proved such a dedicated linksman since taking office. While Barack Obama was still in the White House, Mr Trump continually criticised him for playing golf, suggesting that he should be devoting his time to weighty matters of state instead.
In October 2014 he tweeted: “Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the US, President Obama spent the day playing golf. Worse than Carter.”
The next day he followed up with: “We pay for Obama’s travel so he can fundraise millions so Democrats can run on lies. Then we pay for his golf.”
In 2016 he told an election rally: “I love golf, but if I were in the White House, I don’t think I’d ever see Turnberry again. I don’t think I’d ever see Doral again. I don’t ever think I’d see anything. I just want to stay in the White House and work my ass off.”
But since being elected, his scruples about taking to the course seem to have disappeared.
“Donald Trump promising that he would never golf and work so hard is probably the ultimate broken Donald Trump promise in a long list of promises,” Jeb Fain, a communications director for American Bridge 21st Century, told The Independent. “Taxpayers have a right to know how they’re funding his lazing around a golf course … and it’s absolutely astounding when you break it down.”
The latest estimates showed Mr Trump spent at least 202 days of his presidency playing golf before departing on his latest holiday.
The total cost to taxpayers for Mr Trump’s golf trips has reportedly amounted to nearly $107m, and a HuffPost analysis revealed each Bedminster trip costed $1.1m.
When compared to past presidents like Obama, who played golf a reported total of 306 times throughout the eight years of his presidency, Mr Trump’s frequent vacations from the White House are notable.
The president largely visits his own properties despite critics noting he was effectively profiting from his position as commander-in-chief.
The White House has previously sought to defend Mr Trump’s golf expenditure in New Jersey by saying the president was visiting his Bedminster property to avoid higher fees that would allegedly come with him staying at the Trump Tower in New York, his former residence.
“That’s laughable,” Mr Fain responded when he was read the White House’s previous response. “Absolutely no one buys that Trump is going to his golf courses at a nine-figure cost to taxpayers as some act of selflessness or fiscal responsibility.”
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