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Pence's Doonbeg detour cost nearly $600K in ground transportation fees

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Vice President Mike Pence and wife, Karen, met with the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and his partner Matt Barrett, right, at Farmleigh House, Dublin, on Sept. 3 2019. -
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Peter Morrison AP
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Ground transportation for Vice President Mike Pence's stay at President Donald Trump's Doonbeg, Ireland, resort cost taxpayers nearly $600,000, according to State Department receipts.

The documents, made available through a General Services Administration database, were first spotted by the left-leaning watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and later reviewed by NBC News.

The receipts totaled more than $599,000 in conjunction with the vice president's stay, which required him to travel back-and-forth between Doonbeg and Dublin, where his official meetings were set to take place. During then-President Barack Obama's three-day visit to Ireland in 2013, the State Department spent just $114,000 on ground transit, paying the same limousine company. The government paid the same company nearly $1 million for Trump's ground transportation during a June visit to the property.

The State Department referred NBC News' request for comment to the vice president's office. The vice president's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pence spent hours in transit — both flying and driving — between Doonbeg and Dublin, more than 180 miles away on the opposite end of the country. Pence, who traveled with his wife, sister, and mother, was originally scheduled to conclude his trip in Doonbeg, where he has familial ties, after attending World War II commemoration ceremonies in Poland.

Pence's visit to the president's property has come under scrutiny, including from House Democrats. The episode, in addition to recently revealed Air Force crewmember stays at Trump Turnberry in Scotland, has reinvigorated the longstanding debate about whether Trump is using the presidency to enrich himself.

Last week, Pence's chief of staff Marc Short told reporters that Trump made a "suggestion" that Pence stay at the the Doonbeg property. Pence's office walked back Short's comment later that day, saying that Trump did not "direct" the vice president to stay at the golf club and the decision was "solely" made by Pence's team. The following day, Trump said he had "no involvement" with Pence's decision to stay at his hotel.

"I don't suggest anything," Trump said. "I don't suggest it, nor did I with the attorney general. I never spoke to the attorney general about using my hotel," referring to reports that Attorney General William Barr booked a $30,000 holiday party at Trump International Hotel in Washington in December.

"I have a lot of hotels all over the place, and people use them because they're the best," Trump added. "And I know the attorney general is using it, as I read in the paper. To this day I haven't spoken to him about it, but he's using the hotel. And people like my product, what can I tell you, can't help it."

On Monday, Trump again sought to distance himself from Pence's stay.

"I had nothing to do with the decision of our great @VP Mike Pence to stay overnight at one of the Trump owned resorts in Doonbeg, Ireland," the president tweeted. "Mike's family has lived in Doonbeg for many years, and he thought that during his very busy European visit, he would stop and see his family!"