Mar-a-Lago, a sprawling complex in Florida, has been described as the White House during the Trump presidency, a place from which the country s leader would entertain heads of state and order US missile attacks.
The private club, located on an eight-acre estate that is now the focus of an FBI search warrant, attracted annual membership fees of $200,000 and became symbolic of Donald Trump's time in office, blurring the ethical lines between his business empire and his presidential duties.
Trump bought the estate in 1985 and is surrounded by perfectly manicured lawns, a 126-room mansion complete with expansive verandas. It was built in 1927 for a cereal heiress and socialite, Marjorie Merriweather Post, who will be presenting it to the US government in 1973. However, neither Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter used it, and it was returned to private ownership in 1981.
During his presidency, Trump became known for spending significant time at his properties, with his Mar-a-Lago home the most frequented. A Washington Post tally reported that he was there for all or part of 142 days of his presidency, over 32 visits.
At one point it contained its own makeshift Situation Room from which Donald Trump approved a military strike on a Syrian airfield used by Bashar al-Assad's military to unleash chemical weapons.
Trump negotiated with and entertained Chinese president Xi Jinping and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe there and in 2019 the cast of notable characters included the Chinese former owner of a massage parlour snared in a high-profile prostitution scandal, a Russian investor wanted to be in his home country for tax fraud and a cosmetic dentist who influenced Trump's thinking on veterans care by writing policy advice on a cocktail napkin.
The use of the property as a de facto presidential court caused a lot of controversy. Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said that the Mar-a-Lago club has turned into a pay-for access to the president club, with a president with almost no knowledge of governmental policy.
If you can whisper in his ear and tell him anything, he may think it is sensible and he may well act upon it. When he s there, it's a circus, said Palm Beach society writer Jose Lambiet, who chronicled Trump's tenure at Mar-a-Lago. It is not just the ethics of this, but the visuals are terrible. This is not a policy that should be done this way. He thinks it is cool that he was elected for this stuff, but I don't think he was. The ethics of people having access to him through Mar-a-Lago should be investigated because it allows rich people to have access to him in a way that regular people don't.