Jeff Greene, the billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, took advantage of his status as a member of President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago Club to do a photo shoot for a campaign mailer pledging to make Trump pay personally for his frequent Florida visits.
“If Trump wants to vacation here at Mar-a-Lago, he can pay for that himself,” declares an 8-by-10 color mailer that shows Greene standing with hands on hips looking at the Palm Beach mansion from one of its swimming pools.
The photo appears to have been taken from the club’s oceanfront pool across A-1-A from the main mansion. Greene spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren said the candidate visited Mar-a-Lago for the photo shoot and no digital manipulation was involved in the image.
The mailer dovetails with a 30-second Greene TV ad that says he’ll end Florida taxpayer expenditures to help with security when Trump visits and “put that money where Florida needs it — to fully fund Planned Parenthood and help our struggling schools with more teachers and resources.”
Palm Beach County and other local governments spent $3.4 million to help protect Trump during his first seven visits to Mar-a-Lago between February and April 2017. The federal government reimbursed local taxpayers for the costs. Local governments are also in line to be reimbursed by the feds for the costs of Trump’s 2017-18 visits, which cost $3.3 million between November and early February.
Greene lives two properties south of Mar-a-Lago and has been a club member since before Trump got involved in politics.
“He intends to keep his membership as long as he’s allowed,” Van Susteren said. “There are many folks that wish they could walk right up to Donald trump and tell him exactly what they think. That’s why he intends to keep his membership.”
While all the Democratic candidates for governor have prided themselves on opposing the Republican president, Greene’s Mar-a-Lago membership allows him to make his case visually in a way his rivals can’t. And if Greene’s photo ops anger the president enough to get him kicked out of Mar-a-Lago, it probably would be seen as a badge of honor for the Democratic candidate.
VanSusteren said the Greene campaign has not heard any reaction from the president or Mar-a-Lago, but Greene “anticipates his membership being revoked.”
Trump was the clear front runner for the Republican presidential nomination when the Palm Beach County GOP rented Mar-a-Lago’s Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom for its March 20, 2016 Lincoln Day dinner. But Trump still faced significant skepticism from many conservatives, particularly over his apparent lack of a coherent judicial philosophy. That fueled Republican concerns that some portion of the right might vote for minor-party candidates or sit out the 2016 election.
So Trump, speaking to local Republicans but with the national media watching, acknowledged his doubters and promised that he would release a list of “great conservative judges” that he would appoint to the Supreme Court as president.
“I am going to give a list of either 5 or 10 judges that I will pick — 100 percent pick — that I will put in for nomination. Because some of the people that are against me say, ‘We don’t know if he’s going to pick the right judges,’ ‘Supposing he picks a liberal judge’ or ‘Supposing he picks a pro-choice judge,’ ” Trump said at the time.
Collaborating with the conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation, Trump’s campaign eventually listed 21 potential court picks — including eventual Trump nominee and Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Trump reaffirmed the importance of the Mar-a-Lago pledge today, telling reporters in the Oval Office that his choice to replace Kennedy “will be somebody from that list.”
Two years ago, the list was crucial in preventing massive conservative defections from Trump, who often brought up the Supreme Court when the GOP coalition appeared restless.
“We have a war to win against a very crooked politician named Hillary Clinton, OK?” Trump pleaded at a June 2016 rally in Tampa. “The Republican Party really should get their act together, they have to come together. We’ve got to win. And if for no other reason, the Supreme Court, remember that.”
Leading “Never Trump” figure Rick Wilson, who tried in 2016 to get conservatives to support independent candidate Evan McMullin for president, conceded in a 2017 interview that Trump’s Supreme Court pledge hampered his efforts
“The Supreme Court was a value-added for Donald Trump that turned skeptical Republicans into at least tolerant Republicans of Trump. It was something we saw turn up in focus groups over and over and over again,” Wilson said shortly after Trump took office. “The Supreme Court was the unspoken and spoken selling proposition for Donald Trump well beyond any other factor for base Republican voters.”
At the conclusion of a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on April 18, Trump seemed to relish the possibility of accomplishing something with North Korea that eluded past presidents.
“We’ve never been in a position like this with that regime…And I hope to have a very successful meeting,” Trump said of the talks with Kim.
But Trump said he was willing to walk before or during the meeting.
“If I think that it’s a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we’re not going to go. If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting and will continue what we’re doing,” Trump said during news conference with Abe.
Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson quickly blasted Trump this morning.
“The cancellation of this summit reveals the lack of preparation on the part of President Trump in dealing with a totalitarian dictator like Kim Jong Un. We’ve seen similar lack of preparation by the president in dealing with the leaders of China and Russia,” Nelson said.
At Mar-a-Lago in April, Trump and Abe pledged to continue their “maximum pressure” campaign against North Korea until Kim agreed to “complete and verifiable and irreversible” denuclearization.
“We will not repeat the mistakes of previous administrations. Our campaign of maximum pressure will continue until North Korea denuclearizes,” Trump said at the time.
“There is a bright path available to North Korea when it achieves denuclearization in a complete and verifiable and irreversible way. It will be a great day for them. It will be a great day for the world,” Trump said.
Abe also urged caution.
“Just because North Korea is responding to dialogue, there should be no reward. Maximum pressure should be maintained,” he said through a translator.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that the president phoned his friend, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Bondi held her phone to the microphone so the audience could hear Trump say: “I’ll be there fairly soon. We’ll hold a special event there in the near future … We’ll be in Tampa very soon.”
A big question: Will Trump appear with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis? Trump tweeted in December that DeSantis “would make a GREAT Governor of Florida,” but otherwise hasn’t weighed in on the gubernatorial primary between DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Trump has made 17 trips to Palm Beach as president, covering at least a portion of 71 days.
He’s also made several appearances elsewhere in Florida as president. Most of those coincided with trips to Mar-a-Lago, but two did not: a trip to Miami last June and to Southwest Florida after Hurrricane Irma last September.
Trump’s non-Palm Beach County visits to Florida have included:
• Tampa — A Feb. 6, 2017 visit, along with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, to the headquarters of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base;
• Melbourne — A Feb. 18, 2017 campaign rally in Melbourne during which Trump summoned Boynton Beach resident and Trump super-fan Gene Huber to the stage;
• Pensacola — A Dec. 8, 2017 rally in which Trump promoted the campaign of accused child molester Roy Moore in a special U.S. Senate election in Alabama. DeSantis flew from Washington to Pensacola with the president and gave an impassioned introductory speech at the rally. Two weeks later, Trump made his “GREAT Governor” tweet about DeSantis;
• Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale — A Feb. 16 visit with Melania Trump — two days after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland — with recovering victims at Broward Health North Hospital and then with first responders at the Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Fort Lauderdale ;
• Key West — An April 19 trip to Naval Station Key West to visit the Joint Interagency Task Force-South with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and others.
Palm Beach County’s Lantana airport — forced to effectively shut down whenever President Donald Trump visits Mar-a-Lago — is inching a little closer to getting some relief from the federal government.
A spending bill approved by a House Appropriations subcommittee this week includes $3.5 million to reimburse airports and related businesses that are affected by the temporary flight restrictions imposed when Trump visits Palm Beach or his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The money, for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, has not been approved by the full committee or the full House or the U.S. Senate. But it was hailed as a significant step by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, whose district includes the Lantana airport and Mar-a-Lago.
“Great news!” Frankel tweeted this morning. She has worked on the issue with U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., whose district includes Trump’s Bedminster club.
The president of the company that runs operations at Lantana airport estimated in January that he’d lost about $500,000 during Trump’s visits.
The Secret Service prohibits flights in and out of the Lantana airport — officially known as Palm Beach County Park Airport — whenever the president is in town because the airport is less than 7 miles from Mar-a-Lago. Trump has made 17 visits to Palm Beach since taking office.
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies who help protect President Donald Trump when he visits Mar-a-Lago racked up nearly $3.3 million in overtime during presidential trips between November and early February – money that county officials expect to get back from the federal government.
Congress set aside $41 million in March to reimburse local law enforcement agencies for “extraordinary…personnel costs” incurred through Sept. 30 “for protection activities directly and demonstrably associated with any residence of the President that is designated or identified to be secured by the United States Secret Service.”
During Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips between Nov. 21 and Feb. 4, which covered at least a portion of 27 days, sheriff’s deputies earned $3.26 million in overtime, sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.
Payroll data is not yet available for the five visits Trump made between Feb. 16 and Sunday, which covered at least a portion of 20 days.
The presidential details are paid entirely with overtime so that routine law enforcement operations aren’t compromised, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said last year.
“We don’t take anybody off the road that handles normal calls for service,” Bradshaw said.
Trump’s latest Mar-a-Lago visit was his 17th trip to Palm Beach as president — but he still trails John F. Kennedy for presidential Palm Beach stays, and he’s far behind Harry Truman for presidential time in Florida.
Since becoming president, Trump has spent at least a portion of 72 days in Palm Beach. The actual time he has logged in Palm Beach County — primarily at Mar-a-Lago and his nearby Trump International Golf Club — has been roughly 53 days. That’s more than 11 percent of his presidency.
Kennedy, whose family owned an oceanfront compound on North County Road until 1995, spent at least a portion of 97 days in Palm Beach while he was president, according to records from the Kennedy Presidential Library.
Moments after he arrived at Trump International Golf Club in unincorporated West Palm Beach this morning, President Donald Trump blasted a New York Times article that said his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, “could end up cooperating with federal officials who are investigating him for activity that could relate, at least in part, to work he did for Mr. Trump.”
Cohen’s office, residence and hotel room were raided by federal investigators April 9. In a series of tweets this morning, Trump called Cohen “a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if……..it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”
Trump accused the Times of relying on “non-existent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael.” The Times said its story is based on “interviews with a half-dozen people familiar with” the Trump-Cohen relationship.
Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone is quoted as saying “Donald goes out of his way to treat him (Cohen) like garbage.” Former Trump associate Sam Nunberg is quoted as saying Trump has “taken Michael for granted” and that “Michael now holds the leverage over Trump” and “should maximize” that leverage.
The Palm Beach Post asked Stone if he had any comment on the article or the president’s tweets and if he knew the identity of the “drunk/drugged up loser” Trump mentioned.
“Not a reference to me. Beyond that I have no comment,” Stone replied.
Nunberg told CNN’s Abby Phillip: “I have no idea who POTUS is talking about so I have no response.”
President Donald Trump was tweeting from Mar-a-Lago late Thursday night and early this morning about fired FBI Director James Comey, his book tour and the release of 15 pages of redacted memos Comey wrote after meetings with Trump in 2017.
The Comey memos include little that hasn’t been made public before. For Palm Beachers, there’s a mention of Mar-a-Lago in Comey’s account of a Jan. 28 dinner he had at the White House with the president.
Topics Trump mentioned during a wide-ranging conversation included “the extraordinary luxury of the White House (which he favorably compared to Mar-a-Lago),” Comey wrote.
Trump on Thursday night said the memos vindicated him.
“James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?” the president tweeted at 10:37 p.m. Thursday.
James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?
This morning, Trump added: “So General Michael Flynn’s life can be totally destroyed while Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book (that should never have been written). Is that really the way life in America is supposed to work? I don’t think so!”