After spending last Saturday night dining at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C., US President Donald Trump has paid a visit to at least one of his properties on each of the past 12 weekends. In fact, since he made his first visit to Mar-a-Lago in Florida just after the inauguration in early February, the most time that he’s spent without going to one of his many properties is six days.
This occurred between March 27 to April 1, when he stuck managed to avoid spending any time at his golf clubs in Florida or Virginia and even refrained from eating at the restaurant in his hotel in D.C.’s historic Old Post Office. The numbers don’t get any better when you look at them as a total percentage of his time in his office, as he spent at least some time at a Trump property on 33 of his first 94 days in office. This works out to him being at one of his private properties one out of every 2.8 days on average.
However, despite the fact that many media sources are quick to point out these numbers and the potential conflict of interests raised by the President’s visits to Trump properties, it seems that a majority of Americans don’t see the visits as being a conflict of interest.
When polled as to whether Trump’s visits represented a conflict of interest due to the free promotion his properties received as a result, 54 percent of respondents felt that the visits weren’t a conflict since, as president, it’s his right to go wherever he wants. Alternatively, 43 percent of those polled felt that the visits did in fact represent a conflict of interest as the President could gain financial benefits due to the free promotion.
As you’d expect, the results of the poll were dramatically split along party lines, with less than one in every Trump voter or stated Republican seeing the visits as a conflict of interest. That’s compared to the 74 percent of Hillary Clinton who say there’s a conflict. The results are fairly evenly split among those who voted for a third-party candidate in 2016. Interestingly, the poll showed that less than half of people who considered themselves independents see the visits as a conflict, which is surprising since they have been some of the President’s most vocal critics at times.
Still, no matter what the American public has to say on this issue, it seems it is one that isn’t going to go away soon. For his part, President Trump is remaining entirely unconcerned about the most recent poll or the supposed ‘scandal’ in general, which isn’t surprising since, taken as a whole, the number of days that Trump has spent away from the White House during the first part of his presidency isn’t all that different from that of his predecessors.
While President Obama only spent 14 days away at weekend retreats or Camp David during the same initial period of his presidency, President George W. Bush actually spent far more time away than Trump has, a total of 24 days compared to only 25 for Trump.
However, what is unprecedented about the visits is the potential financial benefits the visits could provide Trump. Therefore, due to these potential ethical issues, and also the growing expenses that these visits entail, it seems likely that the President will have to address the issue sooner or later. This is especially true if he continues to host foreign leaders at his Trump-brand properties, as he did at Mar-a-Lago with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe.