President Donald Trump is spending the holidays at his Mar-A-Lago resort, where he can relax and meet with supporters and hangers-on.
The president feels “liberated” at his private club, where he’s surrounded by fewer staffers and more fans, according to multiple former White House officials who spoke to Politico.
“He doesn’t have the infrastructure of the White House to really deal with — you know how difficult it is to get somebody cleared into the [White House] complex,” said one former official. “You don’t have those same concerns at Mar-a-Lago.”
The situation has long troubled White House officials and especially the Secret Service, but several people who’ve been there said Trump loves interacting with members and their guests.
“He naturally interacts with club members and visitors who would never have access to him at the White House,” said another former official. “There’s less staff around and he does as he sees fit. It’s a completely different environment and some people trying to meet him have figured out how to exploit that.”
Access to Trump has been restricted since the early days of his presidency, when members brought lobbyists and foreign dignitaries as guests.
“It was a bunch of hangers-on,” one official said. “You just don’t want to put the president in the same room with some folks … who were maybe closer to him when he was a developer or living in New York than you’d want, who were controversial in their own right, whether they were involved in lawsuits or other things.”
Staffers have largely put a lid on that access, but Trump rarely meets anyone who disagrees with him, after most members who objected to his policies have resigned from the club since his election.
“He can’t stand to be criticized or challenged,” said Laurence Leamer, the author of “Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump’s Presidential Palace.”
“When he asks you, ‘How am I doing?’ you just say ‘You’re doing great,’ that’s it, that’s what he wants to hear,” he added. “The people around him are increasingly the true believers and it’s almost like a religious revival when he shows up there. They jump up and down, they shout, they scream his praises.”