White House

White House says Trump’s Mar-a-Lago visit isn’t a vacation

The president spent his first full day back in Florida since April at his Trump International Golf Club.

President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump (left), and son Barron Trump are pictured boarding Air Force One. | AP Photo

President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and son Barron boarded Air Force One on Tuesday en route to Trump's Mar-a-Largo resort in Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo

The president of the United States is not on vacation.

That was the White House’s message on Wednesday after President Donald Trump arrived at Mar-a-Lago, his palatial private club in Florida, to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with his family.

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Trump and his aides insisted that the president would use his time at what they’ve dubbed the “Winter White House” to make progress on tax reform and other top priorities, even as he spent much of his first day back in Florida since April at the nearby Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.

“Will be having meetings and working the phones from the Winter White House in Florida (Mar-a-Lago),” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

Having faced withering criticism for Trump’s frequent weekend and holiday trips to his clubs, the White House is sensitive to any implication that the president is shirking his duties by enjoying downtime at his properties.

On Wednesday, just moments after a Washington Post reporter traveling with the president sent a message to the broader press corps saying the White House expected a “low-key day,” the reporter sent another dispatch correcting her previous statement.

“While the White House communications staff expects the press pool to have a ‘low-key day,’ the president will NOT have a low-key day and has a full schedule of meetings and phone calls,” wrote the reporter, who was part of a small group of journalists known as the “pool” who travel with the president and distribute reports detailing his activities.

A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request from POLITICO for more details on the president’s meetings and calls, nor did she respond to an inquiry about whether Trump played golf on Wednesday, one of his favorite leisure activities.

Trump has visited his own properties at least 99 times since taking office, including 77 stops at properties that feature golf courses, according to an NBC News tally. He has often been photographed by fellow golfers, whose posts have appeared on social media even as the White House refuses to acknowledge the president’s time on the links.

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly asserted that he didn’t like taking time off and wouldn’t vacation if elected. “I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done,” Trump told The Hill in 2015. "I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off.”

Trump’s propensity to play golf is also notable because he frequently criticized former President Barack Obama for spending time on the course.

“Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf,” Trump tweeted in 2014.

Trump has so far played golf more often than Obama did at this point in his first year in office, according to PolitiFact.

Trump’s visits to Mar-a-Lago and his nearby golf club this week come at a crucial moment for tax reform, one of his top legislative priorities. They also come as lawmakers in the House and Senate are working to reach a year-end agreement to avoid a government shutdown. Trump is slated to meet with top congressional leaders on Tuesday to discuss the contours of the year-end deal.

The White House frequently tries to tightly control how the public perceives the president. During his grueling 12-day, five-country tour of Asia, White House aides repeatedly insisted the president wasn’t tired, even though nearly everybody traveling with him could barely keep their eyes open.

Trump, 71, at times looked fatigued during the trip. But he insisted he wasn’t, instead shifting attention to the bleary-eyed reporters traveling with him.

“We’ll make some comments probably tomorrow afternoon, only because we have to let the media recover,” Trump said in the Philippines earlier this month, referring to the timing of a then-pending statement at the White House. “They want to recover. When I said we’ll do it on Wednesday morning, they all said, ‘Will we do it later than that?’”