oversight

Presidential Security: Vetting of Individuals and Secure Areas at Mar-a-Lago

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2019-02-07.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States Government Accountability Office
                Report to Congressional Requesters




                PRESIDENTIAL
 January 2019




                SECURITY

                Vetting of Individuals
                and Secure Areas at
                Mar-a-Lago




GAO-19-246
                                              January 2019

                                              PRESIDENTIAL SECURITY
                                              Vetting of Individuals and Secure Areas at Mar-
                                              a-Lago
Highlights of GAO-19-246, a report to
congressional requesters




Why GAO Did This Study                        What GAO Found
The President has made numerous               The U.S. Secret Service (Secret Service) vets individuals differently depending
trips to the Mar-a-Lago property in           on the person’s expected proximity to the President when he travels, including
Palm Beach, Florida, during which he          during his visits to Mar-a-Lago. According to Secret Service officials, vetting may
met with foreign leaders and                  include using physical screening (measures to detect physical threats to the
conducted presidential activities.            president and secure the property) and background checks intended to identify
GAO was asked to review the                   individuals who have prior criminal activity or present other types of threats.
establishment of secure areas for use         Individuals at Mar-a-Lago who are not expected to meet with the President or
by the President at Mar-a-Lago. This          enter spaces the President may visit pass through an outer layer of security
report provides information on, among         consisting of physical screening checkpoints surrounding the property. The
other things, (1) vetting of individuals      Secret Service physically screens all individuals who will access areas where the
expected to be near the President; (2)        President will be present, such as a dining room. According to Secret Service
efforts to establish secure areas for         officials, individuals who have a meeting with the President generally undergo
handling classified information; and (3)      both physical screening and enhanced background checks.
regulations and processes for agency
expenditures on employees who travel          The Department of Defense (DOD) and the Secret Service coordinate to
with the President. This is a public          establish and secure several areas that are suitable for handling classified
version of a sensitive report that GAO        information when the President travels to Mar-a-Lago. These areas include a
issued in October 2018. Information           conference center, spaces used by staff of the National Security Council and the
that the Secret Service and DOD               Executive Office of the President, and presidential transportation vehicles.
deemed sensitive has been omitted.            Details associated with these areas and facilities are sensitive and have been
                                              omitted from this report.
GAO analyzed laws, regulations,
policies, and procedures; reviewed            The Secret Service and DOD are subject to regulations that govern the
agreements between federal agencies           reimbursement of employees for official travel expenses. Both organizations
and trip after-action reports; and            have processes to review these travel-related expenses when their personnel
interviewed DOD and Secret Service            travel with the President and try to acquire lodging at the General Services
officials. GAO also reviewed vouchers         Administration’s per diem lodging rate. When the Secret Service is not able to
from the four presidential trips to Mar-      acquire rooms at the per diem lodging rate, including when it needs rooms for
a-Lago from February 3, 2017 through          operational purposes that exceed 300 percent of the per diem rate (a threshold
March 5, 2017.GAO also reviewed
                                              set by the General Services Administration), employees must submit a waiver
documentation and descriptions of
                                              request. DOD personnel must also obtain approval when costs exceed the
specific security practices with DOD
and Secret Service officials. The
                                              General Services Administration’s lodging rate. Our review of DOD vouchers and
Executive Office of the President has         Secret Service documentation confirmed that personnel did not exceed the 300
not responded to requests regarding its       percent threshold for lodging during the Mar-a-Lago trips examined in this
role in assisting DOD and the Secret          review. We assessed the costs of Presidential travel in a separate report.
Service in carrying out their
responsibilities.




View GAO-19-246. For more information,
contact Joe Kirschbaum at (202) 512-9971 or
at kirschbaumj@gao.gov or Diana Maurer at
(202) 512-9627 or at maurerd@gao.gov


                                                                                      United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                                   1
              Secret Service has Processes to Vet Individuals Based on Their
                Expected Proximity to the President                                                      5
              DOD and the Secret Service Provide Secure Areas for the
                Handling of Classified Information When the President Travels
                to Mar-a-Lago                                                                            8
              Regulations and Processes Governing Secret Service and DOD
                Expenditures on Employee Per Diem Expenses for Travel and
                Operational Space in Support of the President                                           10
              Payments Received by the U.S. Treasury Department from The
                Trump Organization through Treasury’s Donation Processes                                15
              Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                                        16

Appendix I    Comments from the Department of Homeland Security                                         19



Appendix II   GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments                                                    21


Figures
              Figure 1: Security Layers While Providing Secret Service
                       Protection at Mar-a-Lago                                                          6
              Figure 2: Areas Available to Handle Classified Information during
                       Domestic Presidential Travel                                                      9
              Figure 3: U.S. Treasury Department Donation Processes                                     15

              Abbreviations

              DOD                        Department of Defense
              FTR                        Federal Travel Regulation
              JTR                        Joint Travel Regulations
              Secret Service             U.S. Secret Service
              Treasury                   U.S. Department of the Treasury


              This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the
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              Page i                                                    GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
                       Letter




441 G St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20548




                       January 23, 2019

                       Congressional Requesters

                       The President has made numerous trips to the Mar-a-Lago property in
                       Palm Beach, Florida. The President has hosted a foreign head of state
                       and head of government and conducted other presidential
                       responsibilities, including addressing matters of national concern, while at
                       Mar-a-Lago, which may render the property a location of potential interest
                       to foreign actors. Because members of the public are able to mingle with
                       the President when he is at Mar-a-Lago, members of Congress and
                       others have raised questions about the protection of classified information
                       at the property. Questions have also been raised with regard to potential
                       conflicts of interest that could arise as a result of foreign government
                       patronage at The Trump Organization’s properties.

                       You asked us to review issues pertaining to the establishment of secure
                       areas where classified information can be handled by the President when
                       he travels to Mar-a-Lago. You also asked us to identify payments made to
                       the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) that result from foreign
                       government patronage at The Trump Organization properties. 1 This
                       report provides information on (1) processes taken to vet individuals who
                       will be in close proximity to the President when he visits Mar-a-Lago; (2)
                       processes to provide the President with secure areas for handling
                       classified and other sensitive information while at Mar-a-Lago; (3)
                       regulations and processes governing agency expenditures on employee
                       per diem expenses for travel and operational space for personnel who
                       travel with the President; and (4) the Treasury’s processes for receiving
                       payments from The Trump Organization or the President and payments
                       that the Treasury has received through these processes. This is a public
                       version of a sensitive GAO report that we issued in October 2018. DOD
                       and the Secret Service deemed some of the information in our October
                       report as sensitive, which must be protected from public disclosure.

                       1
                        Under federal law, Treasury may receive gifts to reduce the public debt and general gifts
                       to the U.S. Government (Treasury is also authorized to accept gifts for its own use (see 31
                       U.S.C. § 321(d)), but such gifts are not at issue here). There are several terms used to
                       describe these transactions. Specifically, The Trump Organization policy uses the terms
                       donation and payment, Treasury uses the term donation, and the U.S. Code uses the term
                       gift. For consistency and clarity, we will use the term payment to refer to a transaction of
                       funds into one of three Treasury accounts and the terms donation or gift to refer to
                       Treasury processes.




                       Page 1                                                    GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
Therefore, this report omits sensitive information on vetting individuals
and providing secure areas for handling classified information. Although
the information provided in this report is more limited, the report
addresses the same objectives as the sensitive report and uses the same
methodology. 2

To address our first objective, we analyzed guidance and documents
related to protective operations from the U.S. Secret Service (Secret
Service) and reviewed agreements between federal agencies to identify
the measures that agencies are expected to take to vet individuals during
the President’s domestic trips. We interviewed officials from the Secret
Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to ascertain how they
partner to vet individuals during the President’s trips. We reviewed final
survey reports that summarize security measures and actions taken by
the Secret Service during the President’s four trips to Mar-a-Lago
between February 3, 2017 and March 5, 2017 and other documentation.
A GAO engagement assessing Presidential travel costs selected the first
four trips to Mar-a-Lago after the President’s inauguration, because those
trips were completed shortly before the date of the Congressional request
letter. 3 To stay consistent with concurrent work on Presidential travel
costs, the same time frame was selected. We interviewed officials from
the Secret Service who were tasked with protecting the President to
determine how agreements, policies, and procedures are used to vet
individuals when the President is at Mar-a-Lago.

To address our second objective, we reviewed security-related guidance
from the Secret Service and the Department of Defense (DOD) to
determine the roles that these organizations have in establishing secure
areas that may be used to handle classified information when the
President travels. 4 We also reviewed Office of the Director of National
Intelligence policies and procedures that are to be used when

2
 Presidential Security: Vetting of Individuals and Secure Areas at Mar-a-Lago. GAO-19-
177SU (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 2018).
3
 GAO, Presidential Travel: Secret Service and DOD Need to Ensure That Expenditure
Reports Are Prepared and Submitted to Congress, GAO-19-178 (Washington, D.C.: Jan.
17, 2019).
4
  For the purposes of this report, the term “secure areas” refers to locations established
and secured by the Secret Service and DOD for use by the President or on the
President’s behalf to receive, review, and otherwise handle classified or sensitive
information. The handling of classified information may include classified conversations or
phone calls and viewing classified documents.




Page 2                                                    GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
establishing temporary secure areas, such as those used at Mar-a-Lago,
for handling classified information. We also reviewed the details of
specific security practices for the site with agency officials. We relied on
DOD and Secret Service documentation and descriptions of these
practices. We discussed with DOD officials after-action reports they
prepare to identify vulnerabilities related to information security and steps
that have been taken to address these vulnerabilities. We requested from
DOD the after-action reports examining areas that may have been used
by its personnel, the National Security Council, and the Executive Office
of the President during the President’s trips. DOD officials provided us
with a March 2017 after-action report for the President’s March 3-5, 2017
visit to Mar-a-Lago. We reviewed the report to understand the types of
information included and assessed by DOD. DOD officials stated that
similar reports were developed after each of the President’s February
2017 trips to Mar-a-Lago. In addition, we discussed and reviewed with
Secret Service officials specific security practices at Mar-a-Lago related
to protection of the property, the presidential suite, the dining room, and
public areas, among others. We further reviewed the Secret Service’s
after-action reports for each of the four trips to Mar-a-Lago within our
scope. Each report included specific information on what had occurred
during the trip and identified what security personnel did in securing each
segment of the site. Secret Service personnel made themselves available
to answer our questions regarding the report.

To address our third objective, we reviewed laws, regulations, and
policies to identify the rules and processes governing agency
expenditures on operational spaces and per diem for employees who
accompany the President when he is traveling domestically. We reviewed
documentation about DOD’s and the Secret Service’s travel processes,
such as policies and agency guidance. In addition, we reviewed the
vouchers from the presidential trips to Mar-a-Lago that were completed
between February 3, 2017 and March 5, 2017. We also interviewed
knowledgeable officials from DOD and the Secret Service. We reviewed
relevant policies and spoke with agency officials regarding policies and
processes that are in place for when individuals on travel need to exceed
the General Services Administration per diem rate. We also reviewed
Secret Service documentation regarding waiver requests submitted when
individuals traveling with the President exceeded the General Service’s
Administration per diem rate. In addition to this work, we assessed the




Page 3                                           GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
costs of Presidential travel, which we published in a second report in
January 2019. 5

To address our fourth objective, we reviewed Treasury’s website and
interviewed Treasury officials to identify processes for receiving gifts to
the federal government and gifts to reduce the public debt. To identify
payments received by Treasury from the President or The Trump
Organization that were made through the Treasury’s donation processes,
we reviewed Treasury accounts and interviewed officials to determine if
any payments had been received from January 2017 through August
2018. 6 We also reviewed The Trump Organization’s written policy, which
provides its definition of foreign government patronage, explains how it
will calculate profits from foreign government patronage, and specifies
when The Trump Organization intends to make payments to the Treasury
under this policy. 7 Finally, we interviewed attorneys representing The
Trump Organization.

Additionally, we contacted the White House Counsel’s Office in May 2017
and January 2018 to solicit the perspective of the Executive Office of the
President, including the National Security Council, on efforts to establish
secure areas and vet individuals at Mar-a-Lago and manage costs
associated with personnel traveling with the President, and on any
payments The Trump Organization has made to the U.S. Treasury of
profits realized from foreign government patronage of The Trump


5
    GAO-19-178.
6
 We limited our review to two accounts identified by Treasury officials as those into which
such payments would most likely be deposited. We searched all deposits to these
accounts using the following keywords or phrases: “President,” “Trump,” “Trump
Organization,” “EOP” (Executive Office of the President), and “Mar-a-Lago.” The Treasury
deposit data have some limitations. Specifically, the source of a payment is not verified by
Treasury, and Treasury’s processes allow donations from anonymous sources. Treasury
officials told us they had identified instances since January 2017 where President Trump
donated his salary to the National Parks Service and the Department of Education. We did
not review these salary donations because they are outside the scope of this report.
7
 This policy defines what The Trump Organization considers to be a foreign government
entity and specifies how the company will calculate profits from these entities. According
to the policy, a foreign government entity is (1) a department or agency of a foreign
government, (2) a foreign embassy, (3) a foreign political party, (4) members of a royal
family, or (5) a sovereign wealth fund. Properties subject to the policy include wholly-
owned hotels, resorts, and clubs, as well as managed hotels and condominium-hotels.
The policy applies to the Mar-a-Lago resort and the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.,
among other properties.




Page 4                                                     GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
                       Organization’s properties. As of January 2019, the White House
                       Counsel’s Office had not responded to our requests for information. 8

                       We conducted this performance audit from April 2017 to October 2018 in
                       accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
                       Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
                       sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
                       findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
                       the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
                       conclusions based on our audit objectives. We subsequently worked with
                       DOD and the Secret Service, from September 2018 to January 2019 to
                       prepare this unclassified version of the original sensitive report for public
                       release. This public version was also prepared in accordance with these
                       standards.


                       The Secret Service has processes to vet individuals differently depending
Secret Service has     on the person’s expected proximity to the President, using a combination
Processes to Vet       of physical screening and background checks, as illustrated in figure 1.
Individuals Based on
Their Expected
Proximity to the
President




                       8
                        We also contacted the White House Counsel’s Office to solicit the perspective of the
                       Executive Office of the President, including the National Security Council, on efforts
                       relevant to our January 2019 review examining presidential travel costs. As of January
                       2019 we had not received a response to this request.




                       Page 5                                                   GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
Figure 1: Security Layers While Providing Secret Service Protection at Mar-a-Lago




According to Secret Service officials, physical screening includes the use
of equipment such as wands and magnetometers to secure the property.
Background checks assess in part whether an individual has a history of
criminal activity. 9 In some cases, enhanced background checks identify
other types of threats.

The Secret Service develops and executes a security plan to ensure that
the outer, middle, and inner layers at the travel location are secure.
Officials from the Secret Service confirmed that agency policies aim to
provide comprehensive planning guidance for their agents’ activities but
are not meant to be all inclusive. 10


9
 According to Secret Service officials, the background check process is similar to the
process used for individuals who are trying to gain access to the White House. We do not
include specific details about the background checks in this report because they are
classified.
10
  Officials from the Secret Service indicated that they used protective operations guidance
such as, but not limited to, U.S. Secret Service, Advance-General Information, OPO-03
(August 24, 2007); U.S. Secret Service, Protective Advance Guidelines OPO-04, (August
24, 2007); U.S. Secret Service, Support, OPO-11 (August 24, 2007); U.S. Secret Service,
Presidential Protection-Overview, PPD-02 (June 2, 2015); and U.S. Secret Service, Name
Checks, PIA-08 (June 30, 2016).




Page 6                                                    GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
•      Outer Layer: The Secret Service uses physical screening measures
       to establish a layer of security around the Mar-a-Lago property.
       According to Secret Service officials, state and local law enforcement
       and the U.S. Coast Guard may monitor entry onto the property or
       perform visual checks of individuals entering the property and
       surrounding waterways. Depending on where the President is, guests
       may be required to pass through a physical security checkpoint that
       employs magnetometers, wands, and visual checks to assess
       physical threats.
•      Middle Layer: Officials from the Secret Service said that they use
       physical screening measures for individuals and any rooms that the
       President may access during his visit. Officials told us that if they are
       notified of the President’s planned arrival to a specific room, they will
       secure that room.
•      Inner Layer: In advance of the President’s arrival, the Secret Service
       has a process requiring vetting of individuals who are expected to be
       within close proximity to the President for a planned purpose or in
       certain secure areas. According to Secret Service officials, individuals
       who need access to secure areas but who are not expected to interact
       directly with the President, such as wait staff and other workers, are to
       undergo a background check in addition to physical screening.
       Individuals who are expected to meet the President are to undergo a
       background check and an enhanced background check. Officials from
       the Secret Service said that they are responsible for collecting the
       findings from these checks and making recommendations to the
       Executive Office of the President on whether individuals with
       derogatory findings should be allowed to access a space. According
       to officials from the Secret Service, staff at Mar-a-Lago routinely
       undergo background checks.
In order to conduct the background check, the Secret Service is to use
personally identifiable information for each individual, and those
Individuals’ names may be checked against indexes maintained by the
Secret Service and other federal, state, and local law enforcement
organizations. The Secret Service’s guidance notes that submission of
the requested information to run a background check is based on
individuals voluntarily providing the needed information. 11 In order to
conduct an enhanced background check, the Secret Service collaborates
with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agency
partners. According to officials from the Secret Service, the Executive
11
     U.S. Secret Service, Name Checks, PIA-08 (June 30, 2016).




Page 7                                                    GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
                         Office of the President is responsible for identifying individuals who are
                         expected to meet with the President and providing the Secret Service with
                         the names and the personally identifiable information needed to complete
                         these checks.

                         According to Secret Service guidance, White House staff is expected to
                         submit all names to the Secret Service at least 72 hours in advance of the
                         President’s arrival. Advance agents are also responsible for setting
                         deadlines for completing background checks. Officials from the Secret
                         Service said that, based on the information received from these checks,
                         the Secret Service will make a recommendation to the Executive Office of
                         the President on whether an individual should be granted access to the
                         President. According to these officials, the Executive Office of the
                         President ultimately determines whether or not an individual will have
                         access. However, the Secret Service is responsible for ensuring that the
                         area is safe and that the individual is physically screened.




                         DOD’s White House Communications Agency and the Secret Service
DOD and the Secret       each have specific responsibilities for establishing secure
Service Provide          communications and secure areas for handling classified information
                         when the President travels to domestic locations, such as Mar-a-Lago.
Secure Areas for the
Handling of Classified   •    DOD’s White House Communications Agency: This organization is
                              an information technology unit within DOD that supports the President
Information When the          and his staff during presidential trips. This organization’s mission is to
President Travels to          provide information services to the President, Vice President, National
                              Security Staff, Secret Service, and others when directed. 12 According
Mar-a-Lago                    to agency guidance and officials, the White House Communications
                              Agency is responsible for installing secure communications equipment
                              that enables the exchange of classified information in areas that may
                              be used by these entities.
                         •    Secret Service: According to officials from the Secret Service, they
                              send an advance team that coordinates with the White House
                              Communications Agency to set up a conference center for the
                              President where classified information may be exchanged, among

                         12
                          Defense Information Systems Agency, DISA Circular 640-45-48, White House
                         Communications Agency (Mar. 13, 2014).




                         Page 8                                               GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
    other things. These officials stated that they provide security at the
    entrance of this conference center and perform security sweeps to
    ensure that it is safe and secure.
DOD and the Secret Service coordinate to establish and secure several
areas that are available for handling classified information when the
President travels to locations such as Mar-a-Lago, as shown in figure 2.
These areas include a conference center, spaces used by staff of the
National Security Council and Executive Office of the President, and
presidential transportation vehicles. Details associated with these areas
and facilities are sensitive and have been omitted from this report.

Figure 2: Areas Available to Handle Classified Information during Domestic
Presidential Travel




Page 9                                               GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
                            The Secret Service and DOD are subject to regulations governing
Regulations and             reimbursements to employees for official travel. Processes exist to review
Processes Governing         these travel-related expenses when personnel from these agencies
                            travel. These processes are the same when personnel accompany the
Secret Service and          President to Mar-a-Lago. 13
DOD Expenditures on
Employee Per Diem
Expenses for Travel
and Operational
Space in Support of
the President
Federal Regulations         Two regulations implement statutory requirements and executive branch
Govern Agencies’ Policies   policies for travel, allowing agencies to pay for or reimburse their
                            employees’ per diem expenses (lodging, meals and incidental expenses)
for Paying Or Reimbursing
                            and other travel-related expenses:
Employees’ Official Duty
Travel Expenses             •    The Federal Travel Regulation (FTR), issued by the General
                                 Services Administration applies to the Secret Service’s personnel. 14
                            •    The Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), issued by the Department of
                                 Defense apply to DOD personnel. 15


                            13
                             In addition to this work, we assessed the costs of Presidential travel in a second report.
                            See GAO, Presidential Travel: Secret Service and DOD Need to Ensure That Expenditure
                            Reports Are Prepared and Submitted to Congress, GAO-19-178 (Washington, D.C.: Jan.
                            17, 2019).
                            14
                              The Federal Travel Regulation, issued by the General Services Administration, applies
                            to most federal employees. See 5 U.S.C § 5707 (authorizing the General Services
                            Administration to issue travel regulations). The Federal Travel Regulation is found at 41
                            C.F.R. chs. 300-304. Following the time frame for the trips that we reviewed, on May 5,
                            2017, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 provided authority to the Secret Service
                            to pay per diem travel expenses (i.e., lodging, and meals and incidental expenses) of
                            employees on protective missions without regard to the General Services Administration’s
                            reimbursement rates for federal employee travel. Pub. L. No. 115-31, div. F, tit. II, 131
                            Stat. 135, 410. This language also appears in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018,
                            Pub. L. No. 115-141, div. F. tit. II.
                            15
                             The Joint Travel Regulations, issued by DOD, are applicable to uniformed service
                            members and DOD civilian employees (referred to as DOD personnel in this report). For
                            DOD civilian employees, the Joint Travel Regulations incorporate elements of the Federal
                            Travel Regulation and regulate per diem and travel allowances, among other things.




                            Page 10                                                   GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
                           Both regulations allow agencies to pay for employees’ daily expenses
                           when they are traveling within the continental United States, based on
                           allowances set by the General Services Administration for the applicable
                           location and date (per diem rates) or the actual expense of travel. 16 Under
                           the Federal Travel Regulation, the maximum amount that a civilian
                           employee may be reimbursed is 300 percent of the applicable per diem
                           rate. 17 The Joint Travel Regulations allow uniformed service members to
                           be reimbursed up to 300 percent of the per diem rate when they are
                           traveling in the continental United States, but they can be reimbursed
                           more than 300 percent of the per diem rate for lodging when traveling
                           outside the continental United States. 18


The Secret Service Has a   Officials from the Secret Service stated that they apply the same cost
Standard Process for       oversight processes for all presidential travel. Expenses for lodging and
                           operational space are centrally billed to the agency, and employee meals
Overseeing Costs for
                           and incidental expenses are reimbursed to the traveler. In accordance
Lodging, Meals and         with policy, the Secret Service tries to acquire lodging at the General
Incidental Expenses, and   Services Administration’s per diem lodging rate and must submit a waiver
Operational Space during   request for any room that exceeds this designated rate by any amount. 19
Presidential Travel        The Secret Service field office closest to the travel destination is
                           responsible for arranging for these spaces, negotiating rates, and if
                           necessary submitting a waiver request to officials in the Secret Service’s
                           Logistics Resource Center. The Logistics Resource Center is to review
                           the waiver request, determine whether a more cost effective method
                           exists to meet the need, and approve or reject the request.

                           In some cases, the Secret Service may not be able to acquire rooms at
                           the per diem lodging rate, or agents may need rooms for operational
                           purposes that exceed 300 percent of the per diem rate, which is more
                           16
                              FTR pt. 301-11; JTR 020301, 020307, 0318. Payment under the actual expense method
                           is permitted for a variety of reasons, such as costs escalating due to special events (e.g.,
                           sporting events or disasters) or because of mission requirements. FTR § 301-11.300; JTR
                           020307. DOD establishes per diem rates for overseas non-foreign areas and the
                           Department of State does so for foreign overseas locations. The General Services
                           Administration’s per diem rate for the West Palm Beach area, which includes Mar-a-Lago,
                           from January 2017 to March 2017, was $182 for lodging and $59 for meals and incidental
                           expenses.
                           17
                                FTR §§ 301-11.30(a), 301-11.303, 301-11.305; JTR 020307.
                           18
                                JTR 020307.D.
                           19
                                U.S. Secret Service, Hotel Accommodations, FMD-08 (07), (Jan. 3. 2008)




                           Page 11                                                    GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
than is allowed for lodging under the Federal Travel Regulation. For
example, the Secret Service may use a room for operational purposes or
reserve rooms adjacent to the President to better protect him. In addition,
to meet operational demands, the Secret Service may require a certain
number of agents to stay at the hotel in which the President is staying, so
that they are within a certain proximity of the President at all times.
Furthermore, officials from the Secret Service said that members of the
Secret Service canine teams must stay at hotels that allow animals, and
rooms at these hotels may exceed the General Services Administration
lodging rate.

The authorities the Secret Service has relied on to pay for hotel rooms
needed to meet its operational requirements do not limit how much the
agency can pay. 20 Further, Congress passed a law in May of 2017
excepting the Secret Service from regulatory caps on room rentals,
regardless of room purpose. 21 Nevertheless, consistent with the Secret
Service waiver process, personnel are still required to submit waiver
requests for operational spaces to justify the need to book rooms during
the President’s trips to Mar-a-Lago at prices higher than the General
Service Administration lodging rates. We confirmed that a blanket waiver
request was submitted and approved for all rooms at Mar-a-Lago that
exceeded the General Services Administration per diem lodging rate
during the President’s trips to Mar-a-Lago that are covered by this
review. 22 Additionally, we reviewed Secret Service documentation and
20
  The Federal Travel Regulation provides that payment for miscellaneous expenses—
including the hire of a conference center or a hotel room for official business—may be
made when authorized by the agency and under the agency’s governing policy. FTR
§§ 301-12.1, 301-70.301. In addition, according to the Secret Service Office of the Chief
Counsel, the Secret Service has relied on a 1982 GAO decision that provides that an
agency may rent accommodations that cost more than applicable limitations where (a) use
of the particular accommodations is an integral part of the employee’s job assignment and
(b) failure to provide such accommodations would frustrate the ability of the agency to
carry out its statutory mandate. B-209375, Dec. 7, 1982. By statute, GAO’s authority to
adjudicate these kinds of claims as they relate to lodging rooms was transferred to the
General Services Administration, among other agencies, in 1996.
21
   Following the time frame for the trips that we reviewed, on May 5, 2017, the
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 provided authority to the Secret Service to pay per
diem travel expenses (i.e., lodging and meals and incidental expenses) of employees on
protective missions without regard to the General Services Administration’s
reimbursement rates for federal employee travel. Pub. L. No. 115-31,131 Stat. at 410.
Therefore, since May 2017, the Secret Service has not been subject to regulatory caps on
room rental, regardless of room purpose.
22
  We do not include information on the specific number of rooms in this report that exceed
the per diem rate, because it is classified.




Page 12                                                  GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
                              confirmed that Secret Service personnel did not exceed the 300 percent
                              threshold for lodging.

                              For meals and incidental expenses, the Secret Service’s employees who
                              are on official duty are to submit a claim for reimbursement electronically
                              or by paper and receipts, as applicable, at the conclusion of the trip. 23
                              Approving officials are to approve (or deny) expenses, and the Secret
                              Service’s Financial Management Division authorizes reimbursement for
                              approved travel.


DOD Has a Standard            DOD personnel use the same processes for travel to Mar-a-Lago as they
Process to Oversee Costs      do for other Presidential trips to oversee costs for lodging, meals, and
                              incidental expenses. According to officials from DOD’s Defense Travel
for Lodging, Meals and
                              Management Office, their office establishes travel policy that applies to
Incidental Expenses, and      the four organizations that travel in support of the President’s trips. 24 DOD
Operational Space during      personnel use the Defense Travel System to submit travel documents,
Presidential Travel To Mar-   including vouchers and receipts, as applicable. 25 According to officials,
A-Lago                        lodging may be booked and reimbursed on an individual basis or centrally
                              billed if a block of rooms is needed over the same period. Meals and
                              incidental expenses are reimbursed to the traveler. Like Secret Service’s
                              personnel, DOD personnel must obtain approval from an authorizing
                              official prior to the trip to exceed the General Services Administration per
                              diem lodging rate, consistent with the Federal Travel Regulation and Joint
                              Travel Regulations. 26 According to officials from the Defense Travel
                              Management Office, DOD typically would not reimburse expenses above
                              the approved lodging rate if lodging at the approved rate was available
                              within the region. However, officials from the Defense Finance and

                              23
                                 Secret Service employees are to submit receipts for baggage charges and claims of $40
                              or more. Categories of expenses that can require receipts include but are not limited to
                              transportation, mileage, and parking.
                              24
                                Personnel from the 89th Airlift Wing, Military Working Dog Program, explosive ordnance
                              personnel, and the White House Military Office (which includes the White House
                              Communications Agency) accompany the President when he travels or travel in advance
                              of the President.
                              25
                                The Defense Travel System is DOD’s electronic system for receiving, processing, and
                              approving travel for DOD personnel.
                              26
                                Under the Joint Travel Regulations, the Authorizing or Approving Official determines
                              whether travel is necessary and appropriate to the mission, ensures that all expenses
                              claimed by the traveler are valid, and authorizes or approves the expenses if they are
                              valid. JTR 010201.B.




                              Page 13                                                   GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
Accounting Service indicated that presidential trips may require such a
deviation. 27 These approvals are to be tracked in the Defense Travel
System.

The White House Military Office, which includes the White House
Communications Agency, also sends personnel with the President when
he travels. White House Communications Agency officials told us that its
lodging and operational space for these personnel are typically
coordinated by the White House Travel Office and that DOD personnel
pay for the associated costs and seek reimbursement from DOD after the
trip is complete. 28

According to officials from the White House Communications Agency,
some personnel are required to remain at, or near, the Mar-a-Lago
property. If they are not required to stay at or near the property, they will
try to obtain lodging at hotels in the area at the General Services
Administration’s per diem rate for lodging. DOD officials told us that
according to the Joint Travel Regulations, DOD is not authorized to pay or
reimburse daily expenses above the 300 percent ceiling. In connection
with the President’s travel to Mar-a-Lago between February 3, 2017 and
March 5, 2017, DOD personnel exceeded the General Services
Administration per diem rate but did not exceed the 300 percent
threshold.

According to officials from the Defense Travel Management Office,
operational space used for official business is governed by the Federal
Acquisition Regulation. 29 White House Communications Agency officials
told us that they have generally used space near the Mar-a-Lago property
but leased property, effective September 2017, near Mar-a-Lago to
reduce the cost of supporting the President’s trips to the property. 30


27
   The Joint Travel Regulations provide that DOD personnel traveling with certain
dignitaries, including the President, are eligible for actual expense authorization at or
below 300 percent of per diem without further demonstration of unusual or extraordinary
requirements. JTR 0318.
28
     Operational space includes conference centers or hotel rooms used for official business.
29
  These officials said that the JTR—which includes caps on lodging costs—did not
apply. GSA officials also told us that non-lodging rooms are not regulated by the FTR.
30
 The White House Communications Agency’s lease is for 1 year with 6 additional 1-year
options and a 5-month option.




Page 14                                                     GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
                       Treasury has regular processes for receiving payments designated as
Payments Received      gifts to the United States and gifts to reduce the public debt. Treasury
by the U.S. Treasury   officials stated that any payments received from The Trump Organization
                       or the President that are designated as gifts would be handled using
Department from The    these processes. Under federal law, Treasury may receive general gifts to
Trump Organization     the U.S. Government and may also receive gifts to reduce the public
                       debt. 31 Treasury has developed processes to accept these types of
through Treasury’s     payments, as shown in figure 3.
Donation Processes
                       Figure 3: U.S. Treasury Department Donation Processes




                       Note: According to Treasury officials, a donation made to reduce the public debt must typically be
                       marked as such or it will be processed as a general donation to the U.S. government.
                       a
                        Officials told us that in rare cases in which payments are not clearly identified as gifts to the United
                       States government, they might be deposited into this account. However, they said that this type of
                       deposit would be unusual.


                       Treasury officials said there are three accounts available to receive
                       payments as gifts—a general gift account, a general fund receipts
                       account, and an account for gifts to reduce the public debt. Any of these

                       31
                         See 31 U.S.C. §§ 3113, 3302. Treasury is also authorized to accept gifts for its own use
                       (see 31 U.S.C. § 321(d)), but such gifts are not at issue here.




                       Page 15                                                              GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
                     accounts could receive payments designated as gifts by the President or
                     The Trump Organization. 32 Treasury officials told us they would deposit
                     such payments into the account for gifts to the U.S. Government unless
                     the payment source specified that the funds should be used to reduce the
                     public debt.

                     Treasury received one payment from The Trump Organization, for
                     $151,470 that was submitted through Treasury’s processes on February
                     22, 2018. In May 2017, The Trump Organization issued a policy
                     addressing profits generated from foreign government patronage at its
                     businesses. 33 The Trump Organization’s policy states that it will make a
                     single lump-sum payment annually after the end of its fiscal year, which
                     ends on December 31st. We did not identify any other payments that
                     Treasury received from The Trump Organization or the President
                     between January 21, 2017, and August 1, 2018. 34 In September 2018,
                     an attorney for The Trump Organization confirmed that the organization
                     had not made any payments since February 22, 2018.


                     We provided copies of this draft report to DOD, DHS, the Department of
Agency Comments      Justice, the General Services Administration, the Department of Treasury,
and Our Evaluation   and the Executive Office of the President for comment. We also provided
                     a section to the Trump Organization for comment. DHS provided written
                     comments, which are reprinted in their entirety in appendix I. DHS, DOD,
                     the Department of Treasury and the Department of Justice also provided
                     technical comments, which we incorporated into this report as
                     appropriate. The Executive Office of the President and the Trump
                     Organization provided no comments.



                     32
                       Officials told us that in rare cases in which payments are not clearly identified as gifts to
                     the United States government, they might be deposited into the General Fund Proprietary
                     Receipts, not otherwise classified account. However, they said that this type of deposit
                     would be unusual.
                     33
                      The policy provides that it is applicable to profits generated from foreign governments’
                     patronage from wholly-owned properties and profits generated from management fees
                     earned from managed hotels and condominium hotels that are attributed to foreign
                     governments’ patronage.
                     34
                       Treasury officials told us they had identified instances in which President Trump had
                     donated his salary to the National Park Service and the Department of Education since he
                     took office on January 21, 2017. We did not review these salary donations, because they
                     are outside the scope of this review.




                     Page 16                                                      GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
As agreed with your offices, unless you publicly release this report earlier,
we will not issue the report until 30 days from the report date. At that time,
we will also provide copies to the Secretary of Defense, the Director of
the Secret Service, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney
General, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the
Administrator of the General Services Administration, and the Secretary
of the Treasury. In addition, this report will be available at no charge on
the GAO website at www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact
Joseph (Joe) Kirschbaum at (202) 512-9971 or at KirschbaumJ@gao.gov
or Diana Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or at MaurerD@gao.gov. Contact
points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may
be found on the last page of this report. GAO staff who made key
contributions to this report are listed in Appendix II.




Joseph W. Kirschbaum, Director
Defense Capabilities and Management




Diana Maurer, Director
Homeland Security and Justice Issues




Page 17                                           GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
List of Requesters

The Honorable Gary Peters
Ranking Member
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
United States Senate

The Honorable Elijah Cummings
Chairman
Committee on Oversight and Reform
House of Representatives

The Honorable Tom Udall
United States Senate

The Honorable Elizabeth Warren
United States Senate

The Honorable Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senate

The Honorable Ted W. Lieu
House of Representatives




Page 18                                    GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
Appendix I: Comments from the Department
             Appendix I: Comments from the Department of
             Homeland Security



of Homeland Security




             Page 19                                       GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
Appendix I: Comments from the Department of
Homeland Security




Page 20                                       GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
Appendix II: GAO Contacts and Staff
                   UNCLASSIFIED//FOUO//LES

Acknowledgments


                   Joe Kirschbaum at (202) 512-9971 or at kirschbaumj@gao.gov or Diana
GAO Contacts       Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or at maurerd@gao.gov


                   In addition to the contacts named above, Gina R. Hoffman, Assistant
Staff              Director; Joseph P. Cruz, Assistant Director; Tracy Barnes, Nicholas
Acknowledgments:   Benne, Jennifer Kamara, Joanne Landesman, Amie Lesser, Thomas
                   Lombardi, Carol Petersen, Michael Silver, Janet Temko-Blinder,
                   Christopher Turner, Kayli Westling, and Alex Winograd made key
                   contributions to this report.




                   Page 21                                       GAO-19-246 Presidential Security
(103100)
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