Judicial Watch is investigating yet another Obama personal vacation, trying to get a sense of costs passed on to American taxpayers. This time, our investigation focuses on the security costs associated with First Daughter Malia Obama’s trip to Mexico during Spring Break 2012.
On September 20, 2012, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the United States Secret Service to obtain relevant records.
This Spring Break vacation is shrouded in some controversy. On March 19, 2012, the Obama White House reportedly pressured the removal of press reports detailing the trip, including news that Malia Obama was accompanied by 25 U.S. Secret Service Agents.
Here are the records we’re after through our original March 29, 2012, FOIA request:
Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the expenditure of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or any other services for Malia Obama and any companions during her March 2012 visit to Mexico.
According to a U.S. Postal Service record, the Secret Service received Judicial Watch’s request on April 6, 2012. By law, the Secret Service was required to respond to the FOIA request by May 4, 2012. However, to date, the agency has failed to release the requested records, state why the records must be withheld, or indicate when a response will be forthcoming.
Now, regarding these “now you see it, now you don’t” press reports, on Monday, March 19, numerous online press outlets reported that the President’s 13-year-old daughter, Malia Obama, was on a Spring Break trip to Mexico accompanied by 25 U.S. Secret Service Agents and as many as 12 of her friends. However, shortly after the press reports surfaced, they were quickly removed from the Internet.
According to the original Politico report:
The AFP, the Huffington Post and other websites have scrubbed a report about first daughter Malia Obama’s school trip.
On Monday, the AFP reported that Obama’s daughter was on a school trip along with a number of friends and 25 Secret Service agents. The story was picked up by Yahoo, the Huffington Post, and the International Business Times, as well as UK publications like the Daily Mail and the Telegraph and other overseas publications like The Australian.
But on Monday night, the story had been removed from those sites.
In an update to this story, Politico published a statement issued by Kristina Schake, Communications Director to the First Lady, indicating that the removal of these news stories was “a White House effort:”
“From the beginning of the administration, the White House has asked news outlets not to report on or photograph the Obama children when they are not with their parents and there is no vital news interest. We have reminded outlets of this request in order to protect the privacy and security of these girls,” stated Ms. Schake.
Speaking of the “security of these girls,” the trip reportedly took place shortly after the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a statement advising students on Spring Break “to avoid Mexico.”
The gist of this report was that there was quite a bit of violence taking place in Mexico at the time, including at some resort properties. It was, in fact, the “widest travel advisory” issued regarding Mexico since 2006.
Many questioned why, under these circumstances, the First Daughter and her friends would travel to Mexico, a country overrun by Mexican drug cartels.
Contrary to federal law, the Obama administration has simply ignored this basic FOIA request. I have little doubt that this stonewall is because of the embarrassment of the security costs for the Spring Break trip of the Obamas’ daughter – security costs that may have been more significant given the dangerous situation in Mexico at the time of the trip.
So this now makes the third Obama family vacation under Judicial Watch’s microscope.
Judicial Watch previously 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. The records indicate U.S. Secret Service costs, including accommodations at the Fasching Haus deluxe condominium and the Inn at Aspen, were $48,950.38.
Judicial Watch also 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 of 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.
The Obama administration will likely attempt to hide behind “privacy concerns” regarding their daughter’s trip. The lawsuit is about the security costs associated with non-essential travel for the Obama family.
This is a simple Freedom of Information lawsuit that targets the Secret Service. The decision to allow a Spring Trip visit to Mexico, with all the attendant taxpayer expenditures, was made by adults. And, now, adults in the Obama administration refuse to follow the law and disclose the information we’re seeking.