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Fahrenthold: Evidence that Trump ‘used the government to pay himself’

Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump exit Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport on the way to Mar-a-Lago Club on January 20, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Weekly guest of Seattle’s Morning News and Pulitzer Prize winning reporter David Fahrenthold at The Washington Post, shared photos on Twitter of itemized bills with red circles around some of the numbers. It’s captivating, if you know what he’s talking about.

“We’re trying to figure out how much money Trump got,” Fahrenthold said. “Trump used the U.S. government to pay to his own businesses. So while he was president, he was funneling money from the government to his own pocket and basically doing it in secret. And so now we’re slowly getting the evidence that shows how he did it, when he did it, and how much.”

So how was he able to do this?

“The way he would do it is he would go to his own properties, and there’s a whole bunch of people who have to go with him, mostly Secret Service agents, but also Defense Department attaches, State Department folks. And then when those people came to his properties, because they had to stay right near the president, he would charge the government above market rates for their rooms,” Fahrenthold explained. “So the thing that I was posting yesterday was a receipt from Mar-a-Lago over Christmas, and while Trump is at Mar-a-Lago putting out these messages about trying to overturn the election, he’s still charging the Secret Service for rooms next to him.”

“I think he made $15,000 from the taxpayers over eight days in December of 2020,” he added.

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At the beginning of Trump’s term in office, Fahrenthold says the room rates were about $650 a night, and about $400 a night toward the end.

“That was still much more than the government was normally allowed to pay for hotel rooms in the area,” he said. “But we have found receipts going back to the beginning of his presidency from all different government agencies, totaling about $2.5 million that he used the government to pay to himself, most of it in secret. People didn’t know about almost any of it until we started digging.”

While Fahrenthold says he can’t speak to his motivations, they do know that even though as much money as former president Trump says he has, he did use the government to pay himself.

“At the same time, his son Eric was telling the public a totally different story, saying, ‘Well, we give these rooms away basically for free, maybe 50 bucks a night,'” Fahrenthold said. “That’s what they told the public, and then behind the scenes, they were doing something very different that put some money in their own pockets.”

Fahrenthold says the point of digging into this and reporting on it is not in the hopes that Trump will be prosecuted or forced to refund the money, but rather because he thinks it’s something people want to know, especially if Trump runs for president again in 2024.

“I just think people want to know because there are a lot of questions left about the way that he used the presidency to enrich himself,” he said. “And as long as he’s still contemplating a return to the presidency, I feel that people should know the full picture.”

KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross asked if Trump doesn’t accept the nomination for president, would Fahrenthold drop the investigation?

“I think we’d keep doing it, but people would probably read it less,” he replied.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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