Trump’s $3.4 million Davos bill will be his highest yet

The 2020 World Economic Forum will mark US president Donald Trump’s second appearance at the exclusive confab.
The 2020 World Economic Forum will mark US president Donald Trump’s second appearance at the exclusive confab.
Image: REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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As of now, US president Donald Trump’s two-day jaunt to the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland is set to cost US taxpayers at least $3.4 million, for car rentals and hotel rooms, according to a Quartz analysis of federal filings. Last year’s trip, which Trump canceled at the last minute amid a partial government shutdown, was set to hit $3.6 million but still cost around $3.2 million in unused hotel rooms and rental cars.

Update: Other expenditure filings now bring the 2020 total past $4 million

The total does not include security costs, salaries, or an estimated $2.2 million needed to fly Air Force One round-trip between the US and Zurich and the Marine One helicopter from Zurich to Davos.

Trump is scheduled to deliver the forum’s keynote speech on Tuesday, which is also the opening day of his Senate impeachment trial. It will be Trump’s second time attending the exclusive confab, having never been invited as a private citizen. His first visit, in 2018, cost a bit more than $1.8 million for lodging both in and around Davos, and at the Zurich airport Radisson Blu.

Budget breakdown

Every January, thousands of WEF delegates and attendees descend on Davos, a small Swiss ski town of 11,000 people. High demand means basic apartments near the goings-on can rent for $1,000 a night or more.

The only sitting US president to appear at Davos prior to Trump was Bill Clinton, who went in 2000, the final year of his presidency. Ronald Reagan gave several speeches via video, and George Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama skipped the forum entirely.

For this year’s meeting, the Presidential Travel Support office has set aside about $1 million for lodging. Some members of the White House entourage will be staying at the Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvédère, a historic luxury hotel near the city center.

The Secret Service has obligated more than $400,000 for agents to stay at the Bad Ragaz, a five-star resort featuring indoor and outdoor thermal spas, and another $176,000 for hotel rooms at the Zurich Airport. Rental cars for the White House Communications Agency, the military detachment formerly known as the White House Signal Corps, which provides secure communications to the president and his staff, will run about $266,000.

The final tally for the Davos trip may be higher still; there is often a lag of weeks or months the US government spending money and filing a record of its expenditures. Conversely, some charges may also later be adjusted downward.

Cabinet officials expected to attend Davos 2020 alongside Trump include Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, labor secretary Eugene Scalia, and transportation secretary Elaine Chao. First daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump will be there, along with husband Jared Kushner, also an adviser to the president.

RSVP list

At Davos, Trump will rub elbows with hundreds of world leaders, corporate executives, and well-known members of civil society (to say nothing of my colleagues compiling our Davos Daily Brief). Gender diversity at the elite gathering continues to improve, but this year women will make up only 24% of attendees.

The president of Iraq, Barham Salih, will reportedly make an appearance, as will German chancellor Angela Merkel, and 34-year-old Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin, the world’s youngest head of state. Also taking part is Ren Zhengfei, founder of Huawei Technologies, a company Trump has blacklisted from doing business in the US over what he deemed “national security” concerns; billionaire investor George Soros, who Trump and his allies have improperly blamed for everything from the financing of migrant caravans to controlling the State Department; and environmental activist Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who Trump publicly mocked after she was named Time Person of the Year.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign affairs minister, has called off his plans to attend this year’s WEF, according to Reuters.

“We have to understand the cancellation from Iran foreign minister Zarif against the backdrop of uncertainty in the region and what is unfolding in Iran,” WEF president Borge Brende told reporters last week.

This will be the 50th anniversary of the annual event, which will run from Jan. 21 through Jan. 24. The theme for 2020 is “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.”