Mike Pence took heat when he broke COVID-19 safety recommendations to hit the slopes at Vail last year for a Colorado family ski vacation while he was vice president. Now it turns out that he also broke the bank, sticking the public with a $757,000 tab in Secret Service costs alone, according to a watchdog group.
At the time he was schussing down the Vail slopes in December, Pence was head of the White House coronavirus task force. That same task force had issued dire warnings about the pandemic just weeks earlier, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to stay home for the holidays to help stop the spread of the disease.
Not only did Pence not follow that advice, he forced his Secret Service crew to ignore it as well. According to records obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, at least 48 agents accompanied Pence and his family on the ski vacation from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1.
Agents stayed at different hotels in the area and rented 77 cars. Charges included more than $270,000 at the Marriott Vail Mountain, and more than $80,000 at the Ritz Carlton, CREW reported.
The spread of COVID-19 among Secret Service agents was a concern in an administration notably lax about health safeguards. Career Secret Service staff even suggested an investigation into the issue by Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. But Cuffari, a Trump appointee, opted not to look into it, according to records obtained by the Project on Government Oversight. Cuffari was reportedly worried that findings about coronavirus cases among agents might reflect badly on the Trump administration.
Hundreds of Secret Service officers were either infected with COVID-19 or had to quarantine after potential exposure last year as Donald Trump continued to travel and hold campaign events during the pandemic, ignoring health experts’ advice.
Trump was harshly criticized after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and opted to take a tour in his presidential car with Secret Service agents to hail supporters outside Walter Reed hospital, where he was being treated. Attending physician Dr. James Phillips slammed Trump then about risking agents’ lives for “political theater.”
A spokesperson for the inspector general told the Post that officials determined that investigative resources would be better used elsewhere, but did not specify where.