Trump Bills Secret Services $10,200 Avoids Violating the Federal Employees Gift Law

NEW JERSEY (July 8, 2021)—former President Donald J. Trump bills the US Secret Services for housing.  “Trump charged the Secret Service another $10,200 to rent rooms at Bedminster in May, records show. He’s now charged the service more than $50,000 since leaving office, turning his protectors — and US taxpayers — into a steady source of revenue,” according to Politico.

Former President Donald Trump has charged the Secret Service $10,199.52 for rent at his New Jersey golf club in a single month of his post-presidency, The Washington Post reported. But if Trump had not billed the federal agency–he would be violating the federal gifts law.

A public records request by The Post found what Trump billed agents for their 18-night stay while protecting him at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, which works out at $566.64 a night. Trump is entitled to be reimbursed for housing, meals and other services provided to federal employees.  

In total, taxpayers have covered more than $50,000 in Secret Service rent to Trump since he stepped down, the Post reported. 

It is the first time that figures have been released on such expenditure since January, according to outlet.

It continues a completely legal practice that has lasted since Trump was in office whereby he can bill the Secret Service for staying at his own properties.

Trump’s charges to the government — for rent, services and even bottled water — amounted to at least $2.5 million during his presidency, according to The Post. Between January 2017 to April 2018, taxpayers paid $471,000 to Trump’s properties.

Just before he left office in December, Trump’s Florida residence Mar-a-Lago charged the Secret Service almost $16,000 while they protected the First Family over Christmas.

According to the Post, President Joe Biden does not undertake this practice — but did when he was vice president.

His cost to taxpayers for Secret Service use of a cottage he owns in Delaware between 2011 and 2017 came to $171,600, and is dwarfed by Trump’s charges, the Post reported. 

Federal Employees Gift Law:

Government ethical rules restrict giving and accepting gifts among employees and from outside interests. Policies on exchanges of gifts among employees—as well as on acceptance of gifts or hospitality from other sources—are set by government-wide rules found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 5 CFR 2635 201–205 and 301–304. Employees with questions regarding whether the giving or acceptance of a gift, gratuity or anything else of value should contact their supervisors and designated agency ethics officials. Also see information from the Office of Government Ethics at www.oge.gov.

Gifts Among Employees

An employee may not give, or solicit a contribution for, a gift to an official superior, and may not accept a gift from an employee receiving less pay if the employee is a subordinate.

On annual occasions where gifts are traditionally given, such as birthdays, Christmas, Boss’s Day, an employee may give the following to an official superior:

  • items, other than cash, valued at $10 or less;
  • items such as food and refreshments to be shared in the office; and
  • personal hospitality provided at a residence which is of a type and value customarily provided by the employee to personal friends.

On special, infrequent occasions, such as marriage, illness, or the birth of a child, or an occasion that terminates the superior/ subordinate relationship, an employee may give an official superior a gift that is appropriate to the occasion. In addition, an employee may solicit voluntary contributions of nominal amounts from fellow employees, but not subordinates, to contribute to the gift.

Gifts from Outside Sources

Generally speaking, an employee may not solicit or accept a gift given because of his official position or from a prohibited source to include anyone who:

  • has or seeks official action or business with the agency;
  • is regulated by the agency;
  • has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance of an employee’s official duties; or
  • is an organization composed mainly of persons described above.

A “gift” under these policies generally does not include items such as publicly available discounts and prizes, commercial loans, food not part of a meal such as coffee and donuts, and items of little value such as plaques and greeting cards.

Unless the frequency of the acceptance of gifts would appear to be improper, an employee generally may accept:

  • gifts based on a personal relationship when it is clear that the motivation is not his official position;
  • gifts of $20 or less per occasion, not to exceed $50 in a year from one source (note: this exception does not apply to gift cards, certificates and promotional codes that function as cash, although it does apply to those redeemable only at limited places, for example only at one store or at a group of affiliated stores such as those in a particular shopping center;
  • discounts and similar benefits offered to a broad class, including a broad class of government employees;
  • most genuine awards and honorary degrees, although in some cases an employee will need a formal determination;
  • free attendance, food, refreshments and materials provided at a conference or widely attended gathering or certain other social events which an employee attends in his official capacity, with approval; and
  • gifts based on an outside business relationship, such as travel expenses related to a job interview.

An employee should return gifts not meeting the exceptions or contact his or her supervisor on how to dispose of them. Perishable items may be given to charity or shared by the office, with approval.

Policies governing gifts of entertainment also are issued by individual agencies.

Conferences and Other Events—When an employee is participating in his official capacity as a speaker or panel member at a conference or other event, he or she generally may accept an unsolicited offer of free attendance, including a meal or refreshments, on the day of his presentation. The employee’s participation in the event on that day is viewed as a customary and necessary part of his duties and is not considered a gift.

This policy also applies to agency personnel whose presence at the event is deemed essential under agency procedures to the speaker’s participation at the event, for example members of security details, representatives of the agency’s public affairs division, or aides to assist with presentations. Under limited circumstances, free attendance for a spouse or other guest on that day may be allowed.

Reporting Gifts

While employees may not accept gifts from prohibited sources or gifts given because of their official positions, there are exceptions, for example where individual items are valued at less than $20 per occasion and a total of $50 from one source in a calendar year.

Gifts must be reported when the total value of all such gifts from one source exceeds $415 in a calendar year; individual gifts worth less than $166 do not count toward that threshold. Filers are required to identify the source of the gift, the value of the gift, and a brief description of the gift – excluding items such as food and beverages which are not consumed in connection with overnight lodging. (Note: Separate rules apply to gifts and various types of awards from foreign sources; see 41 CFR 102-42.)

For federal employees using someone else’s luxury accommodations (such as a skybox or private suite) when attending an activity such as a concert or sporting event, the guidance states that when reporting the value of such entertainment, employees should add the market value of the most expensive publicly available ticket to the event to the market value of the food, parking and other tangible benefits provided in connection with the gift of attendance. Each tangible benefit included in the gift of free admission is not a separate gift that may be excluded from the filer’s report based on its individual market value.

Source: Washington Post, Politico, and FedNews contributed to the article.

 

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