Politics

The Secret Service's Big Spending Isn't Completely Outrageous

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

A good USA Today story about Secret Service budget problems caused quite a stir on Monday. They're way over budget, in part because the president spends a lot of weekends at his various resorts and in part because the president has a large family that's very expensive to protect.

It's worth being clear here on what is and isn't outrageous.

Donald Trump has a large family. That's just how it is. Congress should simply appropriate extra money to pay for their protection. That some of them are unusually expensive to protect because they are wealthy is, looked at just on its own, also no fault of the various Trumps. Sure, they could, if they were particularly patriotic, donate the money to cover the extra expenses (although I'm no expert on the technical issues involved), but again, I'm not sure it's their responsibility to do anything about it. Again, it's up to Congress to fund programs that Congress has established, either directly or because an agency interprets the law the way it does. 

And while it's unusual for a president to spend so many weekends at private locations instead of the White House or Camp David (which, of course, still must be maintained and prepared for when the president does show up), I'd be inclined under normal circumstances to be generous to presidents about where they spend their time. If George W. Bush decided to spend extra time at his Texas ranch, for example, that's up to him even if it cost a few dollars. 

No, the only real problem here -- and it is a real problem -- is just a subset of the general lawless and unethical behavior of Trump with regard to his own property. Because he chose not to divest himself from his various properties, Trump is personally profiting every time he stays at one of his hotels or golfs at one of his golf courses. Even when the Secret Service doesn't enrich him directly, each of his trips is an advertisement for his properties. And because of that, I'm not going to feel particularly inclined to defend Trump's travel. Given his behavior, it looks like an abuse of the perks of office, even though it might be more acceptable for a president who was otherwise playing by the rules. 

1. Mira Rapp-Hooper at the Monkey Cage on Trump's threats against North Korea

2. Also at the Monkey Cage: Erica Chenoweth, Emily Kalah Gade and Jeremy Pressman have their monthly update on protesting

3. Norm Ornstein on Trump and Congress

4. Josh Chafetz introduces his book on separation of powers

5. Eric Foner on Confederate monuments and history.

6. And Dan Drezner's epic thread on staffers (and others) treating the president as if he were a toddler

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story:
    Philip Gray at philipgray@bloomberg.net

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