The intertwined nature of President Donald Trump’s business interests with the government is on full display in all its shameful glory. It was just revealed his son Eric cost the American taxpayer an absurd amount of money to go on a business trip.
Eric Trump is now in charge of his father’s business, along with his brother Donald Jr, and in January he took a business trip to Uruguay. That, in itself, is not newsworthy. What is infuriating is because Eric is the son of the president, he is afforded protection by the Secret Service.
This means whenever the Trump family travels for business purposes the Secret Service goes with them, and the Secret Service does not work for free. Nor is their food, travel, or lodging paid for by the Trump family. Instead, the taxpayer foots the bill, and Eric Trump’s trip cost almost $100,000.
Trump’s trip had absolutely nothing to do with his father’s position as the 45th President of the United States but everything to do with his father’s companies and business interests. He traveled to wine and dine rich real estate brokers, and to give a speech at “Trump Tower Punta de Este” in front of hundreds of people.
The use of taxpayer funds raises the continual question about the legality and ethics of the Trump family taking advantage of governmental services which are ultimately being used in tandem to make money for their corporation. This point was echoed by Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University:
This is an example of the blurring of the line between the personal interest in the family business and the government. There is a public benefit to providing Secret Service protection, but what was the public benefit from State Department personnel participating in this private business trip to the coastal town? It raises the specter of the use of public resources for private gain.
It is the policy of the Secret Service to not comment on their protectees. However, the former director of the Secret Service, W. Ralph Basham says the costs of protecting the Trump children is irrelevant whether they are conducting business or not:
The Secret Service does not have an option as to when it is, where it is, nor as to how much it costs, and whether it’s domestic or international. Think about the consequences of something happening to one of the children. The security of it outweighs the expenses of it.
There isn’t anything the taxpayer can do to stop paying for the Trump family’s Secret Service protection. However, after years of Republicans howling about the costs of protecting the Obama family when they traveled overseas they are ever-so-coincidentally silent now.