This White House tour brought to you by: Donald Trump
March 11th, 2013
11:11 AM ET
1 year ago

This White House tour brought to you by: Donald Trump

(CNN) – Real estate titan Donald Trump said he'll cover the costs to keep the White House tours open for rest of the fiscal year, an idea proposed online last week by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The White House announced Tuesday it was suspending the tours through September 30 as a consequence of the forced spending cuts-known in Washington as the sequester–that began taking effect March 1. The tours stopped running on Friday.

The move quickly sparked controversy, with some Republicans arguing the Obama administration was using the canceled tours as a political ploy to draw up negative reaction from the American public over the cuts.

Gingrich floated an alternative idea last week. On Twitter the former presidential candidate volunteered his fellow Republican to pick up the tab.

"Donald trump should offer to pay for the white house tours. He can afford it and it would show who cares more for American students," he wrote, referring to the hordes of kids who venture to Washington for spring break and summer vacation.

Asked Monday about the tweet on "Fox and Friends," Trump said in a phone interview that he hadn't heard anything about the suggestion.

"I think it's so nice of Newt to suggest that," the media mogul said, adding that Gingrich and his wife are members of his club in Washington. "But it sounds reasonable to me. Why not?"

After agreeing to the pitch, he asked how much it would cost.

The U.S. Secret Service told CNN Thursday that the plan will help the agency save $74,000 per week - or $2 million in the next seven months. That's how much it costs to pay 37 uniformed officers $50 an hour for 40 hours a week to secure the tour's route through the East Wing.

But that's just a fraction of the $84 million the Secret Service needs to cut from its $1.6 billion budget, according to the Office of Management and Budget. The officers normally assigned to the tours will be reassigned to other duties at the White House.

"The Secret Service, like other agencies of government is affected by the sequester," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during his Thursday press briefing. "And the Secret Service presented options that ranged from canceling tours to potential furloughs and cuts in overtime. And in order to allow the Secret Service to best fulfill its core mission, the White House made the decision that we would unfortunately have to temporarily suspend these tours."

READ MORE: Critics to Obama: Give up golf, not W.H. tours

Asked if the White House could accept private donations to fund the tours, White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday "I don't know if it's technically possible."

"My guess is that it's not," he said in the daily briefing. "The reason for that is that the sequester mandates across the board, non-strategic, indiscriminate, cuts to the budget. It allows very little, if any, flexibility."

While the White House has not commented on Trump's specific offer, it would also be highly unusual for the Obama administration to accept private contributions for a Secret Service activity.

Trump on Monday said the public White House tours of the East Wing have been a "simple" and "open" tradition for years.

"It's certainly not a lot of money. The big thing is that the country is going to lose a trillion dollars this year," he said. "Closing the White House tours is not exactly the biggest thing on the agenda."

– CNN's Adam Aigner-Treworgy and Lesa Jansen contributed to this report.


Filed under: Donald Trump • White House
soundoff (374 Responses)
  1. Don

    Now, if we could only find a millionaire to cover each of the cuts.

    March 11, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. Pete

    If you go to the government site you'll see secret service guarding the WH get around $52,000 yr and secret service guarding none eccential government personnel get around $38,000 yr,not the huge salaries that these uninformed,uneducated republican posters keep ranting about..And if your republicans would have met 50/50 on most jobs,infastructure and farm bills we wouldn't be talking about this crap would we!!

    March 11, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  3. Drew

    Why can't he just quietly do it? Simple: zero class.

    March 11, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  4. Sly

    "Totally agree – Nixon was impeached for much less."
    ---
    Ho ho ho ho ho ... yeah, ol' Tricky Dick didn't do anything now ... what's 54 felony burglary counts for a President?

    Richard Nixon was the perfect representative of the Republican Party. Liar. Racist. War Monger. Hated all blacks. Hated all Chinese. Hated all Jewish people.

    Actually the Republican party hasn't changed since Trick Dick. Same value system. Lie. Cheat. Kill.

    Heck, Osama Bin Laden was a hell of a lot more honest than Trick Dick.

    March 11, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  5. vidal808

    What are the Repubs grumbling about? The cuts are across the board and those tours are not nessesary. What's the big deal not to go inside the WH? Trump should concern himself with his own matters and Gingrich should keep his trap shut. No one wants to hear what he has to say anyway.

    March 11, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  6. Harry 101

    Grandstanding sure but what the hay. the progressives can grandstand (the sky is falling) why not.

    March 11, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  7. ThinkforYourself

    Tours were suspended in 2001 and resumed in September 2003...what's the big deal? No one was whining about it then.

    March 11, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  8. Alger Dave

    Forget about Trump! Do the easy math, which apparently the Secret Service (and President) cannot do. Here goes: $74,000/wk. = 7400 visitors over 6 days at $10 a piece. Would you pay $10 to see the White House? I think the easy answer is yes. So can the WH push through about 1200 visitors per day? That's about 120-150 vistors/hr. – that seems do-able to me. But if that's too many at that price – then just raise it to $15 per person or $20. This is not hard to figure out! And this also goes for all the National Parks that are crying about losing funding – I cannot think of an easier way to get additional funding that to charge a few more bucks at the gate per person or per car – but apparently the Park Service cannot figure that out! Amazing how incompetent our government is – and I don't mean Congress.

    March 11, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  9. Nate Ballard

    So Donald Trump thinks the wealthy should pick up the slack when government funding gets cut? Huh, sounds familiar.

    March 11, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  10. TATAF

    And now we can see pure economic theory at work. Since there are a lot of Secret Service agents who will be working less because of the budget cuts, there/ should be a great demand to get the spots that might be available in the White House. That means that the $50/hr that they have indicated was the cost should drop to the lowest bidder. I suppose there might be folks who are willing to do that work for $25/hour. What a bargain! Let's see if theory morphs into reality.

    March 11, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  11. NKBL

    Isn't this what the GOP wants? How about some pay-cuts for these Congressional slackers?

    Exactly, and no benefits. Get your own health insurance, like I do.

    March 11, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  12. Alger Dave

    The Obama Administration is a bunch of liars! If the cuts are to be indiscriminate, then roughly 5% of the budget for White House tours should be axed. 5% of 1 year is approximately 2.5 weeks. So their tours should be cancelled for 2.5 weeks, and then should continue as previously scheduled. Obama is just proving that he's a baby, cannot be proven wrong (even though he's dead wrong on this one), and Americans are smart enough to see that. I guess he doesn't care about being a baby given that he's lame duck. Hey, blame yourself if you voted for this guy.

    March 11, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  13. AgrippaMT

    More obnoxious grandstanding by the Donald. Is he going to lead the tours by himself? Disgusting.

    March 11, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  14. The Left Wing

    Geez, a Republican actually wants to raise his taxes to keep government going. It's progress. I hope he's not scared off by letting him know that those evil taxes are actually what pays for government and that those tours are part of evil government.

    March 11, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  15. otlset

    Obama is a cold-hearted, mean-spirited jerk to punish the American people so needlessly in this way. He could have made nominal cuts elsewhere, but no, Obama has to take it out on the American people. This man is the absolute worst president ever! He'll get his lying comeuppance some day...some day...he'll get his yet....

    March 11, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  16. T. E. Lawrence O. A.

    WE CAN ALWAYS COUNT ON DONAL TRUMP to act the pompous buffoon blowhard he is.

    He represents much of what is wrong with American Democracy. His big mouth and small, egotistical ideas are legendary.

    What to do? "Don't even ignore Trump"

    March 11, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  17. LoisT

    "The U.S. Secret Service [said] that the plan will help the agency save $74,000 per week – or $2 million in the next seven months. That's how much it costs to pay 37 uniformed officers $50 an hour for 40 hours a week to secure the tour's route...The officers normally assigned to the tours will be reassigned to other duties at the White House." So if the officers are being reassigned but not being laid off where is the $2M in cuts? Answer: It's all smoke and mirrors, folks. And it's the same whether we're talking about White House tours, buying toilet seats for the military or measuring the methane emissions from cow farts. Move some money from this bucket to that bucket, from this hand to that hand, and poof! It looks like we're actually reducing the rate at which we increase the country's debt and everybody is happy. Except we're NOT doing that–and we're certainly not reducing the debt. Let's make this perfectly clear–if the government really, truly cuts spending, some people, somewhere are going to lose work hours, or contracts, or research dollars or their jobs. Whether it is the Secret Service assistant scheduler, the painter at the factory that sells the government overpriced toilet seats, or the poor sap following cattle herds, there are going to be people that have to find more productive work.

    March 11, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  18. Lynn

    He wants to pay for the tours ? Good just close a few loopholes and it's a done deal

    March 11, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  19. lynn

    Worse than no White House tours is closing the DOD schools for children of the military while stationed overseas. They are being cut for no darn reason, just so the GOP fan flex it's muscles - "see how important I am, I can close schools and stop White House tours". The GOP makes themselves look like Imbeciles and hateful people.

    March 11, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  20. Ellen

    One thing for sure, if Mr. Trump was the president he sure wouldn't close the people's house unlike this child in the White House that's throwing a temper tantrum because he didn't get his way. Just like the 'Vacationing in Chief' making the American people suffer, again.

    March 11, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  21. Jeb

    Great idea!

    Let Trump put his money where his big mouth is.

    March 11, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  22. cbr

    Mr. Trump is in the limelight again. He finds some cause every month or so. Although I do not think that White House tours should be cancelled I would not take Mr. Trump's money. The sequester requires sacrifices and every agency has to make cuts. The Secret Service gave up one joy to have enough money to do their primary functions. Sorry if Mr. Trump or others do not agree. The issue could be readily resolved if Congress would sit down with the President and hammer out a plan. This would mean the Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell would have to meet with the President face to face. Can they both stop sneering long enough to get through a meeting.

    March 11, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  23. yogi

    This is what Trump had envisioned, in neon letters on the White House: Trump's Tours!

    March 11, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  24. Ancient Texan

    Nothing but a political stunt on the part of the President and the White House. They want the public to suffer from this and then he can do his usual point the finger at somebody else and say that they are to blame. He will refuse Trump's offer and those of other public figures that have offered to pick up the tab for a week at atime.

    March 11, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  25. Dude

    There is no cost savings here. The costs have already been incurred. This is merely a political scare by Obamason.

    March 11, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
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