When the president-elect’s son, Eric Trump, jetted to Uruguay in early January for a Trump Organization promotional trip, U.S. taxpayers were left footing a bill of nearly $100,000 in hotel rooms for Secret Service and embassy staff.
It was a high-profile jaunt out of the country for Eric, the fresh-faced executive of the Trump Organization who, like his father, pledged to keep the company separate from the presidency. Eric mingled with real estate brokers, dined at an open-air beachfront eatery and spoke to hundreds at an “ultra exclusive” Trump Tower Punta del Este evening party celebrating his visit.
The Uruguayan trip shows how the government is unavoidably entangled with the Trump company as a result of the president’s refusal to divest his ownership stake. In this case, government agencies are forced to pay to support business operations that ultimately help to enrich the president himself. Though the Trumps have pledged a division of business and government, they will nevertheless depend on the publicly funded protection granted to the first family as they travel the globe promoting their brand.
A spokeswoman for Eric Trump declined to make him available for an interview and did not provide answers to a list of detailed questions about the trip.
Eric Trump’s trip in early January to the coastal resort town appeared to be brief — perhaps as short as two nights, according to a review of local press clips and social media.
The bill for the Secret Service’s hotel rooms in Uruguay totaled $88,320. The U.S. Embassy in Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, paid an additional $9,510 for its staff to stay in hotel rooms to “support” the Secret Service detail for the “VIP visit,” according to purchasing orders reviewed by The Washington Post.
“This is an example of the blurring of the line between the personal interest in the family business and the government,” said Kathleen Clark, an expert on government ethics and law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
Despite the use of public funds, government agencies would not provide key details connected to the trip: including the duration of the stay, the name of the hotel or the number of booked rooms. A spokesman from the Secret Service, citing security concerns, declined to comment.
The money for the hotel rooms was paid through the State Department, but a spokeswoman there declined to comment on the trip. She instead referred reporters to the White House and back to the Secret Service, whose spokesman once again declined to comment. The White House also did not respond to requests for comment.
“There is a public benefit to providing Secret Service protection,” Clark said. “But what was the public benefit from State Department personnel participating in this private business trip to the coastal town? It raises the specter of the use of public resources for private gain.”