Q: Did President Donald Trump send Barack Obama a bill for his “vacation scam”?
A: No. That bogus claim comes from a “satirical publication.”
Did President Trump send the Obamas a bill for their vacation trip, etc.?
President Donald Trump did not send Barack and Michelle Obama a $214 million bill “to repay the government for all of those vacations that weren’t official state business” while they were the president and first lady.
That false claim was made in a story posted on the Maine Republic Email Alert blog on Feb. 16. Facebook users recently flagged the story as potentially fake, and several FactCheck.org readers asked us to check it out as well.
According to the bogus report, Trump also canceled Obama’s use of “discretionary funds from the Office of Presidential Visits and Vacations” for “a series of ‘official visits’ to foreign countries spanning the next 20 years.” That “would have been another $2.1 billion in free vacations for him and up to 24 members of his family plus staff and a dog sitter until the year 2036,” the story says.
None of that is true. The “Office of Presidential Visits and Vacations” does not exist.
The story of “Obama’s vacation scam” was originally published on Feb. 13 by America’s Last Line of Defense, which writes fake news as satire. Its “about us” page says: “America’s Last Line of Defense is a satirical publication that may sometimes appear to be telling the truth. We assure you that’s not the case. We present fiction as fact and our sources don’t actually exist. Names that represent actual people and places are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and do not in any way depict reality.”
For the record, Obama took 29 vacations as president, spanning all or part of 235 days, according to CBS News’ Mark Knoller, a White House correspondent who keeps records of presidential travel. That’s nowhere close to the 692 days of vacation the fake story claims Obama took.
In addition, Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog group, estimates that the Obamas’ family travel, including on official government business, cost American taxpayers nearly $100 million over eight years, according to records it obtained from the Secret Service and the Air Force through Freedom of Information Act requests. That includes, for example, a historic diplomatic trip to open up relations with Cuba followed by a trade trip to Argentina in March 2016 that cost a combined $7.1 million, according to Judicial Watch.
If the nearly $100 million figure is accurate, that’s less than half of the $214 million mentioned in the fictional story.
Judicial Watch offers no comparable figure for other presidents. But the Washington Post reported earlier this year that the Secret Service requested an additional $60 million for fiscal year 2018, including $33 million for additional expected travel costs.
When a trip is for political or unofficial purposes, the president and first lady are responsible for paying for their own lodging, food and other related expenses, according to the Congressional Research Service. They also cover some of the cost of airfare. Much of the cost to taxpayers goes to cover the operation of Air Force One, as well as Secret Service protection for the president and his family.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.
Maine Republic Email Alert. “Trump Just Ended Obama’s Vacation Scam And Sent Him A Bill You Have To See To Believe.” 16 Feb 2017, accessed 14 Jun 2017.
Stryker. “BREAKING: Trump Just Ended Obama’s Vacation Scam And Sent Him A Bill You Have To See To Believe.” Thelastlineofdefense.org. 13 Feb 2017.
America’s Last Line of Defense. “About Us.” Accessed 14 Jun 2017.
Halchin, L. Elaine. “Presidential Travel: Policy and Costs.” Congressional Research Service. 17 May 2012.
Compton, Ann. “Lifetime Secret Service Protection Restored for Presidents Bush and Obama.” ABC News. 10 Jan 2013.
Farris, Scott. “Five myths about presidential vacations.” Washington Post. 15 Aug 2014.
Horsley, Scott. “FACT CHECK: Air Force One, Who Pays?” NPR. 7 Jul 2016.
The Michael Smerconish Program. “By the Numbers: Mark Knoller’s Final Look at the Obama Presidency.” Audio. Soundcloud.com. 17 Jan 2017.
Judicial Watch. “New Obama Travel Costs Bring Eight-Year Total over $96 Million.” Press release. 29 Dec 2016.
Judicial Watch. “Obama Travel Totals Nearly $100 Million.” Press release. 17 May 2017.