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Melania Takes Separate Taxpayer-Funded Plane To Florida

First lady Melania Trump has sparked controversy by reportedly traveling to the Trump family's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, in a plane separately from President Donald Trump. The trip  may have cost taxpayers more than $100,000.

Melania Trump took a military version of the Boeing 757, landing at West Palm Beach  a few minutes after her husband. The couple will reportedly spend a long Easter weekend at the resort, the president's third consecutive weekend in Florida, according to ThinkProgress.

The first lady's separate plane was a government aircraft which reportedly costs $15,846 per hour to operate, making the total cost of her trip over $100,000, according to Daily Mail. The president flew on Air Force One.

According to Judicial Watch, a conservative pro-transparency group, each of the president's trips to Mar-a-Lago costs taxpayers at least $1 million. Some have reportedly used data on former President Barack Obama's travel costs, including a single trip to Chicago and Palm Beach while in office, which cost around $3.6 million, to calculate Donald Trump's travel costs at around $20 million so far in 2017.

Judicial Watch's president, Tom Fitton, said Donald Trump needs to be aware of how much his trips cost taxpayers.

"Taxpayers are on the hook for each trip. We have a right to expect that the president be a steward of these funds, and funds that he has direct control over, because he decides whether to go or not," said Fitton.

In his first 85 days as president, Donald Trump visited Mar-a-Lago, a Trump golf course or other Trump properties on 28 days, The New York Times reports.

Melania Trump has traveled on Air Force One with the president on previous trips, such as one during his eighth week as president. Melania Trump and the couple's son, Barron, reportedly could have used government transportation to meet the president in Washington, D.C., but the 4:44 p.m. departure may have conflicted with Barron's school schedule.

"I can't think of anything like that we've seen at any time in the modern era," said Steve Schooner, a professor at George Washington Law School. "It's just another example of his consistent efforts to exploit public office for private gain."

"He's using his official office and the fact that people have to travel with him, meet him, and follow him to promote his commercial enterprise, in this case his privately owned club," said Schooner.

Trump's frequent trips to Florida contrast with his statements during the presidential campaign, in which he said that he would not leave the White House often.

"I would rarely leave the White House because there's so much work to be done," said Trump in 2015.

"I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off ... You don’t have time to take time off."

Sources: Daily Mail, The New York Times, ThinkProgress / Photo credit: Donald J. Trump/Facebook

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