Trump Could End Up in Home Confinement. Which Property Should He Pick?

A postcard from Bedminster and one from Mar-a-Lago with an ankle bracelet in between both of them.
Which is the superior place to be stuck with an ankle bracelet? Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Trump Golf, Marc Serota/Getty Images, and Enigmangel/iStock/Getty Images Plus.
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On Thursday, former President Donald J. Trump is expected to surrender to authorities in Fulton County, Georgia, on charges of racketeering and other felonies related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Trump will be released on a $200,000 bond. However, that bond agreement includes conditions surrounding social-media posting and witness intimidation that might prove challenging for him to abide by, given his recent history.

Should Trump violate the terms of his bond, it would raise the prospect of him being held in contempt of court, as well as the question of appropriate remedy. And should he ultimately be convicted of any of the dozens of charges filed against him in four separate jurisdictions that all carry essentially life sentences for the 77-year-old, that would raise the question of appropriate punishment. Given the logistical hurdles of imprisoning a former president with lifetime Secret Service protection, one likely outcome is that Trump ultimately finds himself in home confinement, either for a short period while he awaits trial, or for a longer period after conviction and sentencing. He would be the rare inmate who may have his choice of several prisons that bear his name.

Two stand out: Mar-a-Lago, his opulent club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he spends the winter; and the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, the vast New Jersey property where he lives in the summer. Which of Trump’s two primary residences would be the best one for him to pick for any home-confinement punishment, either short-term, for contempt of court, or longer-term, for criminal conviction? In the spirit of Slate’s usual dogged news analysis, we offer this debate as to which is the superior place to be stuck with an ankle bracelet.

I know this about Donald Trump: He is lazy. So lazy that I do not foresee our hypothetically homebound 45th president going through whatever bureaucratic hoops might bedevil him in order to be able to leave historic Mar-a-Lago prison and golf at one of his Florida links. So his main would-be physical activity in the Sunshine State is out. I also know this: Donald Trump does not wear shorts. If you’re a summertime resident of Palm Beach—when it’s hot, muggy, “oppressive,” and, oh yeah, the start of hurricane season—you need shorts. Or better yet: You need to not be there.

Who is at Mar-a-Lago in the summer? No one! The club closes for most if not all of the summer, staying shuttered until the start of the annual “season”—i.e., the party circuit of well-heeled snowbirds relocating from up north—in the midfall. I’m sure spending the winter months locked up on South Ocean Boulevard would be swell: He might have the opportunity to crash weddings during recreation hour, show random dinner guests the last indictment he was served, and hobnob with honored visitors like the MyPillow guy. But summer would be deadly. There would be no strivers, sycophants, lackeys, gophers, MAGA groupies, or for that matter even eager Mar-a-Lago guest Kari Lake, whose own state is hotter but at least there’s no humidity. Who will remind this man how very important he is? Who will hear him tell of the SINGLE GREATEST WITCH HUNT IN THE HISTORY OF THIS COUNTRY? If Trump craves the comfort of the echo chamber that got him into this mess—and he does—he needs to do his time in New Jersey.

New Jersey! It’s fine. More importantly, it’s not Florida. There are two golf courses on the property. One is ranked 15th in the state! Apparently that’s pretty good.

What else is going for Bedminster? Summers are lovely; winters are getting milder thanks to the climate change Trump did his part to accelerate; its larger size means that it contains way more gold leaf than Mar-a-Lago; and with its mid-Atlantic location, it helps keep close Trump’s many, many enemies in Washington and Manhattan. Plus, since he may well never get out, he might as well settle in early at his final destination: The Trump family’s burial plot is on the property too. —Jonathan L. Fischer

If you’re Donald Trump and you’ve gotta pick someplace to be on house arrest for months or even years, the choice is clear: Mar-a-Lago. It’s sunny, it’s scenic, it’s close to family. More importantly for Donald Trump, it’s (most months of the year at least) packed, day in and day out, with sycophants, socialites, and Florida flimflammers, all eager to press the flesh with the former president.

For Trump’s purposes, Mar-a-Lago is superior to Bedminster in every way. Crucially to the ex-president’s finances, it’s in a state with no income tax. It’s where Trump stored most of his precious boxes full of documents, and who knows how many others he’s got squirreled away down there, piled up in secret gilded bathrooms the FBI couldn’t even locate. And most importantly, if Trump’s going to spend a year or more in the same house, he’ll want to be in a place where he can continue to annoy future failed presidential candidate and current Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. You think Trump would miss the opportunity to needle DeSantis at every turn when the guy returns to Florida, tail between his legs? Not a chance.

I don’t even think he’d consider Bedminster for his house arrest. What, hang out in Jersey, 40 miles from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, at a golf club that’s unplayable five months of the year and where, the rest of the time, you run the risk of accidentally tripping over your ex-wife’s weed-covered grave? No way. Better to spend your exile where the goons and millionaires of Palm Beach have easy access to you, where you can enjoy the AC on steamy summer days but still get out to golf the rest of the year.

Yes, it’s true that the West Palm Beach course Trump prefers is officially off-property, unlike the one at Bedminster. Trump taking a car across town for 18 holes might irritate any judge who’s insisting on his house arrest, and it will really irritate his parole officer. But Trump loves to irritate judges (and, presumably, parole officers). He’ll send his lawyers in with a dozen arguments as to why the golf course counts as his house, and he’ll issue Truths about how this activist judge, this LOSER of a PAROLE OFFICER, is VIOLATING his RIGHTS by not allowing him to visit HIS OWN PROPERTY, which is VERY UNFAIR and UN-AMERICAN. And, in the end, nothing will happen. Each time his ankle bracelet starts buzzing in the tee box, he’ll share a jolly laugh with his playing partners. “Hello? Hello?” he’ll say, pretending to hold a phone to his ear. “I can’t hear you, Fani Willis!” Then he’ll get in his golf cart and drive away. —Dan Kois