President Donald Trump is scheduled to spend time at his personal Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the third weekend in a row. The trip will occur a week after Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held diplomatic talks at the president's estate.
For the past two weekends, Trump has flown from the White House to his resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump's private Mar-a-Lago estate has swiftly become such a routine retreat for the president that his aides have nicknamed the resort the "Winter White House."
On Feb. 13, the Federal Aviation Administration posted a flight notice indicating that Trump will fly to Mar-a-Lago again on Feb. 13, The Hill reports.
On Trump's most recent trip to the Florida resort, he was accompanied by Abe to discuss the U.S.-Japan economic relationship. On Feb. 11, events took a turn for the dramatic when North Korea conducted a ballistic missile test while both Trump and Abe were dining at the Mar-a-Lago Club terrace.
Instead of retreating to a private room, both Trump and Abe discussed their strategy to respond to the North Korean test in the presence of other Mar-a-Lago attendees. Onlookers took pictures of the two world leaders as they handled and discussed classified documents on their dinner table, The Washington Post reports.
Richard DeAgazio, a Mar-a-Lago patron who took several photographs of Trump and Abe's exchange and posted them on social media, said that the president's decision to discuss sensitive foreign policy matters in the midst of restaurant customers "just shows that he's a man of the people."
Trump's decision to host Abe at Mar-a-Lago has raised the eyebrows of ethics experts, who note that the president privately owns the resort.
"Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago establishment is a commercial establishment, and he has a financial interest in promoting that business," ethics expert Kathleen Clark of Washington University in St. Louis told NPR.
Clark believes that the media attention that the private resort will receive from hosting a foreign leader for official White House business is "free publicity ... It's product placement."
The ethics expert added that Trump is still operating within the law as long as Mar-a-Lago does not charge foreign leaders for their accommodations. Otherwise, the president would be in violation of the Constitution, which forbids presidents from accepting payments from foreign governments.
"If Donald Trump does not accept any payment from the Japanese government, then the Constitution's Emoluments Clause is not at issue here ... And yet at the same time, I just want to acknowledge that this is just yet another example that we don't know whether he was motivated by his own financial interest or his concern about the American public," Clark said.
Since Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20, the Mar-a-Lago membership fee has been doubled from $100,000 to $200,000. The costs of traveling and Secret Service protection during Trump's first presidential trip to the resort cost taxpayers roughly $3 million, Politico reports.