Secret Service sought $60 million extra for Trump travel and protection, documents show
A view of Trump Tower, where President Donald Trump has a home and the main office of his company in New York.
The U.S. Secret Service requested $60 million in additional funding for the next year, offering the most precise estimate yet of the escalating costs for travel and protection resulting from the unusually complicated lifestyle of the Trump family, according to internal agency documents reviewed by The Washington Post.
Nearly half of the additional money, $26.8 million, would pay to protect President Donald Trump’s family and private home in New York’s Trump Tower, the documents show, while $33 million would be spent on travel costs incurred by "the president, vice president and other visiting heads of state."
The documents, part of the Secret Service’s request for the fiscal 2018 budget, reflect the costly surprise facing Secret Service agents tasked with guarding the president’s large and far-flung family, accommodating their ambitious travel schedules and fortifying the three-floor Manhattan penthouse where first lady Melania Trump and her son, Barron, live.
Trump has spent most of his weekends since inauguration at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, and his sons have traveled the world to promote Trump properties with Secret Service agents in tow.
The documents reviewed by The Post did not show how the new budget requests compare to the funding needs for past presidents, and such figures are not public information. The Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the agency, declined to provide cost breakdowns and have said in the past that such figures are confidential, citing security concerns.
A person familiar with internal Secret Service budget discussions said the requests for additional funding, prepared in late February, were rejected by the Office of Management and Budget, an arm of the White House. That means the agency will likely have to divert other spending to handle the additional burden. While best known for protecting the president, Secret Service agents also investigate cybercrimes, counterfeit-money operations and cases involving missing and exploited minors.
The Secret Service declined to respond to questions after The Post provided a summary of the documents. The service referred questions to DHS, which also declined to comment. The White House referred questions to the Secret Service and the Office of Management and Budget, which did not initially respond to requests for comment. After the article was posted online Wednesday, an OMB staffer issued a statement to The Post saying that the Secret Service is continuing to refine its budgetary estimates. The staffer also said that the claim that OMB denied the $26.8 million request for Trump Tower and family expenses was "outright untrue" and that OMB "supported its funding."
The budget requests reflect a potentially awkward contrast between Trump’s efforts to cut federal spending in many areas and the escalating costs of his travel itinerary. Trump jetted to Mar-a-Lago on Friday for his fifth post-inaguration weekend trip, one day after the White House released a federal budget proposing deep cuts to many government programs.
Former agents said the requests suggest that the agency had to adapt to offer full protection for a president and first family who appear to have placed few limits on their personal travel and living arrangements.
"The Secret Service cannot dictate the lifestyle of the protectee. They have to work around it," said Jonathan Wackrow, a 14-year Secret Service employee and current executive director of the risk-mitigation company RANE. "I don’t think they expected him to go to Florida so often. This was an unanticipated reality," he added, for which the Secret Service "had to quickly readjust operations."
Some of the public funding could potentially become revenue for Trump’s private company, the Trump Organization, which owns the Trump Tower that agents must now protect. The Defense Department and Secret Service have sought to rent space in Trump Tower but have not said how much space they’re interested in, or at what cost. Neither the Secret Service nor the Trump Organization have disclosed how much public money, if any, is being spent toward Trump Tower space or other costs.
The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment.
The Secret Service would not provide any details on the typical budget for protecting the first family. The agency requested $734 million for its fiscal 2017 "operations and support" protection budget, which would include the expenses for all protected individuals and foreign heads of state, DHS budget documents show.
The $26.8 million funding request says the money is needed for "residence security operations at the president’s private residence in Trump Tower," with roughly $12.5 million earmarked to cover "personnel related costs in New York."
The money would also go toward protective assignments for the president’s children and grandchildren, as well as costs for "protective advances and protective intelligence activities." The request also sought six additional full-time-equivalent positions for the Trump security details.
The $26.8 million budget item is marked as $0 in previous years, which former Secret Service agents said likely meant that the costs were part of a new budget category designed to encapsulate the unusual expense of protecting the first lady and the president’s youngest son because they live outside the White House.
There were also additional undisclosed costs, spent in fiscal 2017, to install "equipment and infrastructure to secure Trump Tower," according to the request.
W. Ralph Basham, a longtime Secret Service employee who served as director under President George W. Bush, said that the agency clearly had no "crystal ball" to predict Trump’s victory, and thus, had not accounted for the price tag of his presidency.
"The expense of taking on a family like the Trumps versus taking on a family like the Clintons," he said. "It’s a totally different funding scenario."