Judicial Watch Sues Secret Service, Defense Department for Records Detailing Use of Government Funds for President’s, First Lady’s Lavish Trips throughout 2013
Costly Michelle Obama outings to Ireland and England; vacations to Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard; among trips being questioned in FOIA lawsuit
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that on January 13, 2014, it filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Defense to obtain records detailing the amount of government funds spent on seven separate lavish trips taken by Barack Obama and the Obama family throughout 2013 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Secret Service (No. 1:14-cv-00046)), (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense(No. 1:14 – cv- 00047)).
The Secret Service FOIA lawsuit, pursuant to a series of FOIA requests from June to August 2013, seeks information from the Secret Service about “the use of U.S. Government funds to provide security and other services” to:
- “First Lady Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, and any companions on a June 2013 trip to Ireland.”
- “President Barack Obama and any companions on a June – July 2013 trip to Africa.”
- “First Lady Michelle Obama and any companions on a Summer 2012 trip to London, England for the Olympics.”
- “President Barack Obama and any companions on a December 2012 trip to Honolulu, Hawaii.”
- “President Barack Obama and any companions on an August 2013 trip to California.”
- “President Barack Obama and any companions on an August 2013 trip to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.”
The Secret Service failed to substantively respond to these FOIA requests, and has effectively shut down Judicial Watch’s inquiries about First Family travel.
On January 13, Judicial Watch filed a separate FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense seeking further “records concerning First Lady Michelle Obama’s June 2013 trip to Ireland.”
The current FOIA lawsuits are part of a continuing effort by Judicial Watch to obtain information about taxpayer funding of lavish vacations for the president and his family.
“The Obama administration is in cover-up mode on the costs of the Obamas’ travel. The Secret Service has, in contemptuous violation of law, simply stopped answering our Freedom of Information inquiries,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It seems that our ‘king’ does not want taxpayers to know how much he’s spending on his unnecessary travel.”
U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Rules White House visitor logs off-limits to the America People
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton issued a statement today in response to the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which found that U.S. Secret Service’s White House visitor logs for people visiting the president’s office are not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (Judicial Watch Inc. v. U.S. Secret Service (No. 11-5282)):
“A president that doesn’t want Americans, under law, to know who his visitors are is a president who doesn’t want to be accountable. The appellate court decision punches another hole in the Freedom of Information Act, the law which allows Americans to know what their government is up to. We are strongly considering an appeal. The legal gymnastics in this unprecedented decision shows that President Obama is not the only one willing to rewrite laws without going through Congress. And this legal fight, in which President Obama is fighting tooth and nail against full disclosure under law of his White House visitors, further exposes his big lie that his administration is the most transparent in history. The silver lining is that at least the appellate court opened up the records of tens of thousands White House visits that Obama was trying to keep secret.”
Judicial Watch has taken the lead in exposing the true costs of the Obamas’ personal luxury travel. Using investigations and lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act, JW exposed the evident waste of taxpayer dollars for Obama family vacations to Spain, South Africa, Aspen, and Mexico. Currently under investigation are the costs of the Obama family spring break to the Caribbean.
“The Obamas’ unnecessary personal luxury travel is an abuse of office in this age of sequester, unemployment, and out of control government debt. Taxpayers are right to wonder why the Obamas repeatedly take personal trips with seemingly little regard for the resulting drain on precious tax dollars.”
– Tom Fitton, President
Most recently Judicial Watch is investigating the following trips and or vacations:
- President Obama’s trip to Palm Beach, Florida
- Sasha and Malia Bahamas Spring Break
- Vice President’s Weekend Home Trips
- President’s Day Trips
Click on a press release below to see what we have uncovered.
- JW Sues Secret Service for Records Detailing Costs of Luxury Vacations Taken by Obama, First Lady, and Biden (7/29/2013)
- Michelle Obama’s August 2010 Vacation in Spain Cost American Taxpayers $467,585 According to Records Obtained by Judicial Watch (4/26/2013)
- Malia Obama’s Trip to Mexico: $115,500.87 (12/6/2012)
- Michelle Obama’s Family Ski Trip to Aspen, Colorado Cost Taxpayers at Least $83 Thousand Say Records Obtained by Judicial Watch 7/18/2012)
- Judicial Watch Sues Air Force and Secret Service for Records Detailing Michelle Obama’s Family Ski Vacation to Aspen, Colorado (6/5/2012)
- Judicial Watch Sues U.S. Air Force for Records Detailing Costs of Michelle Obama’s August 2010 ‘Whirlwind’ Vacation to Spain (3/6/2012)
- Judicial Watch Obtains Documents Detailing the Cost to Taxpayers for Michelle Obama’s Family Trip to Africa (10/4/2011)
Additional articles and information on First Family travel:
- Late fees: Taxpayers foot the hefty bill for Obama’s talk-show tour (Washington Post)
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it has obtained records from the United States Air Force and the United States Secret Service detailing Michelle Obama’s February 2012 President’s Day weekend ski vacation to Aspen, Colorado, with her two daughters.
Judicial Watch obtained the records pursuant to a May 31, 2012, lawsuit against both government agencies. Among the highlights from the records are:
- The total cost for the Aspen ski vacation was at least $83,182.99.
- The bill for the U.S. Secret Service, including accommodations at the Fasching Haus deluxe condominium and the Inn at Aspen, was $48,950.38.
- The cost for the flight, per official DOD published hourly rates, was $22,583.70. Food and miscellaneous on-flight items cost $235.44. The cost for rental cars totaled $6,442.23.
Key details, including flight records for the Secret Service detail and the names of individuals who accompanied Mrs. Obama on the vacation, were redacted from the documents with the exception of two staffers. One was Meredith Koop, her personal assistant and style advisor, the other was her scheduler Kristen Jarvis.
As reported by the Aspen Daily News on February 18, 2012:
First Lady Michelle Obama arrived in Aspen on Friday afternoon and is here with her daughters for a ski vacation.
Few details about her trip were available. Sources said she is staying at the home of Jim and Paula Crown, owners of the Aspen Skiing Co. She is reportedly skiing at Buttermilk today, where the Crowns, of Chicago, own a home on the Tiehack side.
Several people have known about the “low-key” vacation, with the Secret Service in town for the past few days scoping out places for the family to relax and enjoy what the resort has to offer.
FoxNews.com noted that the trip was the 16th vacation in three years taken by the Obama family. Judicial Watch first asked for the travel documents on February 21, 2012.
“No wonder we had to file a lawsuit in federal court and wait six months to get basic information on Michelle Obama’s luxury Aspen vacation,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The costs of the Obama family ski weekend are staggering. These high-priced luxury vacations, and the lack of transparency about them, are beginning to seem like an abuse of office.”
Judicial Watch previously obtained documents from the United States Air Force and the United States Secret Service detailing costs associated with Michelle Obama’s controversial August 2010 vacation to Spain. According to a Judicial Watch analysis, the records indicate a total combined cost of at least $467,585.
Judicial Watch also obtained documents detailing costs a June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by Michelle Obama, her family and her staff to South Africa and Botswana. Judicial Watch received mission expense records and passenger manifests for the Africa trip that described costs of $424,142 for the flight and crew alone. Other expenses, such as off-flight food, transportation, security, etc. were not included.
Keeping with the Obama family’s penchant for costly vacations, the president’s 13-year-old daughter enjoyed spring break in a country plagued by so much violence that the State Department has issued travel warnings to discourage Americans from going there.
But, unlike regular Americans or college spring breakers, Malia Obama and her teenage pals were guarded by an army of Secret Service agents at U.S. taxpayer expense. This is not a story you will see in U.S. media outlets, but one foreign newspaper reported it this week though the link seems to have mysteriously vanished from its website. In fact, the White House has admitted pressuring it to take the story down.
No worries. We’ll recount the story of Malia’s spring break jaunt to Mexico, which appeared in Britain’s Telegraph this week and quotes Mexican authorities. Malia and 12 buddies were guarded by 25 U.S. Secret Service agents as well as local police, while in the historic Mexican city of Oaxaca, the report says. The group of teens stayed at a downtown hotel and visited the area’s famous archeological sites.
Never mind that the State Department has repeatedly warned Americans about travel to Mexico, which is rife with drug-cartel violence. Many U.S. colleges are also discouraging students from vacationing south of the border, a once-popular destination for spring breakers. When your dad’s government warns you against traveling to a country that it has a cozy relationship with, perhaps it’s a good idea to pay attention.
Crime and violence are serious problems throughout Mexico and can occur anywhere, according to a State Department bulletin issued just weeks before the first daughter’s jaunt. It goes on to say that U.S. citizens have fallen victims to drug traffickers, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery. In the last few years nearly 50,000 people have been killed in narcotics-related violence in Mexico, according to the government warning.
Gun battles take place in towns and cities, in broad daylight, on streets and in other public venues such as restaurants and clubs. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped because drug lords create road blocks that prevent even the military and police from responding to criminal activity. Furthermore, the location and timing of future armed engagements is unpredictable, the State Department warns, after revealing that the rising number of kidnappings and disappearances throughout Mexico is of particular concern.
Sounds like a war zone rather than a vacation destination. It’s likely that no responsible parent would let their teenage daughter travel to such a place…without an army of Secret Service agents to guard them.