BuzzFeed is reporting that the guests, who pay an annual membership fee of $200,000 to belong to the president’s exclusive resort, have also been listed as attending tours of Air Force One.
“Although past administrations have given Air Force One tours to friends, family, and even donors, in this case, those attending would have paid Trump’s exclusive clubs thousands of dollars annually,” BuzzFeed notes. “Two separate tours were scheduled at the Atlantic Aviation FBO at Palm Beach International for 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Feb. 18, 2017 — hours before Trump held his first 2020 campaign rally less than 120 miles away at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport hangar.” Both the White House and those listed as guests have been reluctant to confirm the report.
This story fits into the recurring pattern of Trump blurring the line between between private and public. It’s of a piece with government business being conducted on Trump’s golf courses and presidential supplicants trying to curry favor by using the services of Trump hotels.
As president, undoubtedly has the right to invite friends to tour Air Force One. But Mar-a-Lago members fall into the shady category of paying friends, whose closeness to the president is purchased. The president has doubled the membership fee of the resort since taking office, so is directly profiting from the sense that his companionship is for sale.
As BuzzFeed reminds us, Trump has a history of favoring Mar-a-Lago guests. He has “reportedly talked through policy proposals and cabinet appointments with members, and at times given some members a look into situations that typically play out in secured locations. Last year, Trump huddled with advisers at Mar-a-Lago after North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Pictures of the high-level meeting soon after found their way onto members’ social media accounts.”