Back in 2017, a gunman opened fire on the Las Vegas strip, murdering 60 people and wounding over 400 more. It was a horrifying and shocking escalation in mass shootings in a country already rocked by more than its fair share. The country and Vegas reeled, and the president at the time, Donald Trump, sprang into action. Like most presidents in the United States, he did his duty to the victims by traveling to Las Vegas in the wake of the shooting and meeting with survivors and family members left behind.
But Trump's stay in Vegas after the shooting is raising eyebrows - and questions of ethics. Trump's Vegas hotel earned around $30K from his visit to Sin City, leaving some survivors feeling used - and some ethics committees crying foul.
Making $30K to Visit Victims
October 4, 2017, Trump traveled to Las Vegas to meet with those left behind in the wake of a staggering mass shooting. Trump and his coterie checked into Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, owned and managed by the Trump Organization.
A ethics non-profit out of Washington - Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) - has highlighted what went on that night.
Business Insider reports, "The logs showed a charge of $31,191 under the client "POTUS/FLOTUS" on November 1, 2017, indicating that Trump profited from the condolences trip. According to CREW, Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, had not been to Las Vegas on any other occasion in the three months leading up to November 1, 2017."
Additionally, then-Vice President Mike Pence stayed at the same hotel and charged the government $15K for his team to stay there on November 2.
Insider adds, "The Washington Post reported in May 2020 that the US government had paid at least $970,000 to Trump's company since he took office in 2017, including for more than 1,600 nights of hotel-room rentals at properties such as Trump's golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey and his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida.
In total, the Secret Service spent nearly $2 million of taxpayer money at Trump properties while he was in office, CREW said in a separate report Monday, citing government records it obtained."
Is This Normal?
This all begs the question of course, is this normal behavior for a president?
The answer is: who knows? Although the United States has had presidents who own businesses before, no one owns as many properties as Donald Trump. So there's really no precedent for his behavior during his presidency in relation to his own properties. Trump ostensibly divested himself of involvement from his organization when he became President, but left family members in charge - raising the question as to whether he was really out of the flow of authority or not.
Arguably, it would be cheaper for him to stay in his own hotels and cost the government less money than it would if they stayed somewhere else, so on the one hand it might not be as bad as it looks on the surface.
On the other hand, there's valid criticism about the fact that - regardless of money saved - government money went straight into his family's pocket under the guise of visiting victims of a horrific mass shooting.
At the end of the day, concern that the president earned money from government trips, including his own numerous business-related golf trips to Trump properties, isn't amounting to much in the way of legal violations. But ethics are a different story.
Like most things Donald Trump, people fall into two camps: either you believe his behavior was appropriate and/or justified, or you don't. As one of the most divisive political figures in history, every move Trump makes is met with either praise or criticism and this is no different. As Trump gears up for the 2024 election cycle - and eyes possibly rivals - the stark contrast between supporters and detractors is as bleak as ever.