During his four-year tenure as United States President, Donald Trump’s sprawling private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, was often described as the “winter White House”. Trump spent all or part of 142 days of his presidency at the resort, which he visited 32 times, according to a tally by The Washington Post.
Here, Trump entertained world leaders, coordinated the United States response to a North Korean missile test, and even approved a military strike on a Syrian airfield. And after he reluctantly exited Washington DC in January 2021, Mar-a-Lago was where Trump set up base.
Early on Tuesday (August 9) India time, the former President announced that his “beautiful home, Mar-a-Lago” was “under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents”. American media reported the FBI searches were in connection with an investigation into whether he had taken classified White House records to the estate.
The FBI action came as a committee of Congress continues its investigation into the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of the former President. The committee was scheduled to interview two potentially key witnesses on August 9: Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the far right politician Douglas Mastriano, a member of the Pennsylvania Senate who is the Republican nominee for Governor of the state.
It started out as a cereal heiress’s home.
Located in Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago — Spanish for ‘sea to lake’ — is a private club, resort, and historic landmark spread across 20 acres. It was originally built between 1924 and 1927 for Marjorie Merriweather Post, a breakfast cereal heiress, as her private residence. It is a 126-room mansion, with wide verandahs and surrounded by well-maintained lawns.
“The main house is an adaptation of the Hispano-Moresque style, long popular among the villas of the Mediterranean. It is crescent-shaped with an upper and lower cloister along the concave side of the building that faces Lake Worth. A seventy-five foot tower tops the structure, affording a magnificent view in all directions for miles,” reads the club’s official website.
The estate was designated “The Mar-a-Lago National Historic Site” by the US Department of the Interior in 1969, and was later added to the National Register of Historic Places. Post willed the home to the US government in 1973 as a retreat for Presidents and senior politicians, but it was returned to private ownership in 1981 after Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter did not use it, and concerns were raised over security and the expenses involved in the upkeep of the property.
It passed to Donald Trump more than 35 years ago.
Trump bought the property from the Post Foundation for about $10 million in 1985 to use it as a private residence. In 1995, he established the Mar-a-Lago Club. He continues to use part of the estate as his private residence.
As President, Trump made his first visit to the estate in February 2017, just three weeks after he had entered the White House, according to a report by The Washington Post. The President spent the weekend playing golf, something that he had repeatedly mocked his predecessor Barack Obama for doing.
Subsequently, Trump entertained several world leaders at Mar-a-Lago, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Trump’s presence at the club, which offers membership for an annual fee of $200,000, was widely criticised as it blurred the lines between his business empire and presidential responsibilities.