Donald Trump’s swanky Palm Beach, Fla. Mar-a-Lago resort is having a difficult transition from a ritzy hangout for millionaires and billionaires into a more rigid fortress with increased security measures to protect the president from threats, and perhaps more importantly, prying eyes.
After photos surfaced on various social media outlets of the president dealing with a North Korean missile crisis in the public view of his dues-paying members, the private club issued new rules prohibiting pictures and videos being taken of Trump while he’s on the property.
The photo and video ban was first reported last week by Jose Lambiet, a South Florida society writer, and current members of Mar-a-Lago confirmed they’re now being informed of the new rule. Whether it can be implemented is another story.
Saturday night, The Palm Beach Post published a picture of Trump inside the club shaking hands with members and guests near the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute-University of Miami charity gala.
Concrete is currently being poured so that Marine One can land at the president’s oceanfront estate. However, local police officials have said that will do little to stop the traffic jams, street closures and flight pattern restrictions that have been implemented since Trump’s election. Adding insult to injury, Mar-a-Lago members have begun taking their gripes public, upset they can’t get into Trump’s club on Saturday nights anymore without booking dinner reservations weeks in advance.
Several longtime members, many of whom paid anywhere from $25,000 to $150,000 in upfront fees to join Mar-a-Lago, aren’t happy with the extra security and media attention that come with a club owner who also happens to be the leader of the free world.
“You can’t buy a membership to Camp David,” said Jack McDonald, a former Mar-a-Lago member and former Palm Beach mayor, referring to the Maryland presidential retreat that Trump has yet to visit. “I can’t think of any other president where you could join a private club and actually see him fairly consistently.”
To become a member at Mar-a-Lago, or even to get a glimpse of the inside, is to join an elite and exclusive society of wealthy Americans and foreigners. Membership lists reveal at least 25 current or former company chief executives, as well as dozens of lawyers, doctors, investors and philanthropists are regulars at the club.
For example: Howard Stern’s wife, Beth Stern; author James Patterson; estranged Koch brother and Trump fundraiser William Koch; retired Coca-Cola CEO Douglas Daft; Dom Telesco, the U.S. distributor of Tommy Hilfiger; former Reagan White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick; Avram Glazer, part of the family that owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and controls the English soccer club Manchester United; James Dolan, the CEO of Cablevision and owner of the New York Knicks; and Debbie “White Dove” Porreco, a descendant of Pocahontas.
As interest in the club surges, Democrats and other groups have raised ethical questions about who the president is associating with. Two senators penned a letter to the White House last month demanding the public release of Mar-a-Lago’s membership list, others say Trump should be pressed to say whether lobbyists or diplomats are injecting cash into the club or any one of his golf courses across the globe.
Preparations are already being made for Trump to go to his golf course in New Jersey, as the warm weather gets closer and closer. After all, Mar-a-Lago is a seasonal retreat, shuttering its doors during the summer and early fall.
Several Mar-a-Lago members have already begun considering cancelling their memberships to the club, if not for the terms of the membership agreement, which require departing members to wait 30 years from when they joined to be refunded their deposit.