- George Bennett Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
President Donald Trump arrived at his Mar-a-Lago estate Thursday evening amid signs he’ll be spending the Easter weekend with family rather than top aides.
Air Force One touched down at Palm Beach International Airport just after 6:30 p.m., a few minutes after First Lady Melania Trump arrived on a separate Air Force plane with four of the president’s children: Don Jr., Eric, Tiffany and Barron.
The trip is Trump’s seventh visit to Mar-a-Lago since taking office in January.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus accompanied Trump to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland for the president’s departure on Thursday afternoon. But Priebus did not board Air Force One and Trump did not appear to have other senior staff with him for the holiday weekend. The White House said Trump has no public events scheduled Friday.
At PBIA, Trump waved and gave a thumbs-up to about 100 supporters who gathered on the tarmac to watch Air Force One’s arrival.
As the president’s motorcade made the short trip east on Southern Boulevard to Mar-a-Lago, about 50 Trump supporters gathered in front of the Publix shopping plaza, some waving large “TRUMP” flags and holding “We (heart) Trump” signs.
West Palm Beach police told the group to stand farther back from the road than in past visits, with one officer telling a Trump supporter that the Secret Service had requested it. Some supporters grumbled, concerned Trump would not be able to see them.
During the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit last week, a 53-year-old woman was arrested in the same area of Southern Boulevard after the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said she “jumped into the middle of the road” in front of the motorcade carrying Melania Trump and Peng Liyuan, the wife of the Chinese president. The action nearly caused a motorcycle deputy to crash, according to the sheriff’s office. The woman was arrested and charged with obstructing a roadway.
Trump’s previous visits to Mar-a-Lago have included summits with Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other official business as well as a dozen golf outings. The trips have cost Palm Beach County taxpayers about $3.7 million. Most of the local expense has gone to pay overtime to Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies who assist the Secret Service with security when the president visits.
Local officials and members of Congress have pressed for the federal government to reimburse the local costs. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, raised the issue again during a town hall meeting in Broward County on Thursday.
“It should not be left on the taxpayers of Palm Beach County and South Florida to bear the costs of these regular visits by the president down to South Florida to go out onto his golf course,” Deutch said at the meeting in Wilton Manors, according to a video clip posted on social media by his office. “So we’re going to continue to press to ensure that those costs are reimbursed so that South Florida taxpayers, Palm Beach County taxpayers, aren’t on the hook.”
Trump’s arrival came hours after the Pentagon announced it had dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal on an Islamic State target in Afghanistan.
“The United States takes the fight against ISIS very seriously,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during a Thursday afternoon briefing.