Palm Beach Says It Is Looking at Whether Trump Is Breaking Any Rules by Living at Mar-a-Lago
When Donald Trump left the White House on Jan. 20, he headed to one of the places where he appears to be most comfortable: Mar-a-Lago, the private club he owns in Palm Beach, Florida.
Now a week later, it looks he may be planning to stay there for the foreseeable future. There's just one problem: Decades ago, he promised officials he never would.
After a group of Palm Beach residents repeatedly pointed to an agreement the now-former president signed in the 1990s — in which he said that no one would stay at Mar-a-Lago for longer than seven days at a time — lawyers for the town are taking up the issue.
"It's a legal matter. It's a contract," Palm Beach Town Manager Kirk Blouin tells PEOPLE. "We have attorneys that prepared [the use agreement] for the town … obviously it was prepared many, many years ago. So because it's a legal matter, it is being reviewed."
The Trump Organization, meanwhile, disputes there is a conflict at all, despite the agreement.
"There is no document or agreement in place that prohibits President Trump from using Mar-a-Lago as his residence," a spokeswoman previously insisted to PEOPLE
In fact, the 1993 use agreement was signed by Trump, 74, after he converted what was then his private residence (purchased in the '80s) into a members-only club.
The town manager says that the town's attorney, John C. Randolph, began reviewing the contract following the outcry from some Palm Beach residents. (Calls to Randolph's office were not immediately returned on Wednesday.)
"There is one resident in particular that has voiced concern and voiced an opinion that has been publicized and has been represented by a lawyer," Blouin says, though he did not identify who that person is.
A demand letter sent to the town last year — written on behalf of the wealthy DeMoss family, who own a property adjacent to the club — argues that Palm Beach needs to remind the former president of his agreement "to avoid an embarrassing situation for everyone and to give the president time to make other living arrangements in the area."
(Trump also owns three houses near Mar-a-Lago.)
The '93 agreement, published by the Washington Post, stipulates that the use of the resort's guest suites "shall be limited to a maximum of three (3) non-consecutive seven (7) day periods by any one member during the year."
According to the Post, Trump also entered into a deal with the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation that Mar-a-Lago would be reserved exclusively for "club use."
Already, Trump appears to have broken that agreement while in office, with HuffPost reporting that he violated the seven-day limit at least three times during his four years in office.
As of this Wednesday, he has seemingly flouted it again, having flown to Mar-a-Lago immediately prior to the inauguration of Joe Biden on Jan. 20.
That underlines what seems to be the real question: Will Palm Beach force the issue?
Laurence Leamer, author of Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump's Presidential Palace, previous told PEOPLE that Trump's apparent lack of adherence to the use rule was par for the course.
"The agreement is pretty clear that he can only stay so many days a year and so many days in a row, that's it," Leamer said. "But Trump has violated every norm and law in human history and he's violated this from day one."
"He's got smart lawyers," Leamer said, adding, "How tough is the town [going to be] against him now, when they've never been tough with him?"
According to a tally by the Post, Trump spent at least 130 days at Mar-a-Lago during his presidency and the town did not raise any objections while he was in office, at least publicly.
"So my guess is his lawyer would just say, 'Well, gee, we were already doing this. Why didn't you cite us for this a long time ago?' " Leamer told PEOPLE.
Describing the contract review as a "fluid situation," Blouin says now that the town's attorney is reviewing the document to determine exactly how best to proceed.
The town's attorney will then provide a legal opinion to the town council, regarding whether or not the agreement is binding.
"Our attorney is working on it, reviewing the case law and doing his research so he can provide the best legal guidance," Blouin explains. "I have no idea how the elected officials would like proceed in this matter. But it may be [that] the town attorney will provide legal guidance on how this could be [handled]."
Blouin says that the Mar-a-Lago contract will likely be on the agenda for the February Palm Beach council meeting, adding that those meetings "generally do always allow public comment."
In December, a source told PEOPLE that the 2,000-square-foot apartment where Trump usually stays at the club was being renovated in advance of his leaving office.
"Donald's apartment, which once belonged to Mar-a-Lago estate creator Marjorie Merriweather Post, will be expanded and spruced up," the source, who is close to the president, told PEOPLE.
"They are definitely renovating his apartment within the Mar-a-Lago Club to make it larger, more modern and comfortable for his use," the source added. (Sources have also told PEOPLE that Trump and his wife, Melania, have separate bedrooms at Mar-a-Lago.)
The timeline on when — or if — the use agreement might be enforced "depends on when our town attorney is prepared to provide a legal opinion on the enforceability of the contract," Blouin says.
Trump's departure to Palm Beach came exactly two weeks after a violent mob of his own supporters descended on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, ransacking offices and forcing the evacuation of lawmakers, in an attempted coup.
Others in the Trump family are looking to Florida: Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, recently purchased a multimillion-dollar property in the Miami are, where they are now renting a luxury condo.
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