WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hunter Biden is apparently spending his father's presidency living in luxury in Malibu -- and so is his taxpayer-funded security detail.
The Secret Service detail protecting the president's controversial son has been paying more than $30,000 a month to rent out a swanky Malibu, California, mansion for nearly a year, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.
The agency responsible for protecting the president and his family -- among other ranking government officials -- selected the property in order to be located as close as possible to Biden's own rented mansion where he is paying about $20,000 a month according to property listings, sources told ABC News.
Retired senior Secret Service agent Don Mihalek, now an ABC News contributor, said the arrangement is "the cost of doing business for the Secret Service," adding that under the federal law, the agency has a mandated protective responsibility for the president, the first family, and anybody else the president designates for protection.
"Typically, wherever a protectee sets up their residence, the Secret Service is forced to find someplace to rent nearby at market value," Mihalek said, noting that the agency is also renting out properties to protect President Joe Biden's residences in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
"This isn't new," Mihalek said. "The Service has had to do this in past administrations, and unfortunately, the housing market right now has driven the prices up substantially."
A White House official referred ABC News to the Secret Service for comment. Asked about the cost of the protection, a representative for the Secret Service said only: "Due to the need to maintain operational security, the U.S. Secret Service does not comment on the means, methods, or resources used to conduct our protective operations."
A representative for Hunter Biden did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News.
Hunter Biden's California lifestyle is coming into focus just as the federal probe into his tax affairs has intensified, as sources familiar with the matter recently told ABC News.
An increasing number of witnesses have appeared before a grand jury impaneled in Wilmington, Delaware, in recent months, the sources said, and have been asked about payments Hunter Biden received while serving on the board of directors of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, in addition to other questions about how Biden paid off tax obligations in recent years.
"In retrospect, look, I think that it was poor judgment on my part," Hunter Biden told ABC News anchor Amy Robach in October 2019, regarding serving on the board of Burisma and the impact of his foreign business dealings on his father's political career. "Is that I think that it was poor judgment because I don't believe now, when I look back on it -- I know that there was -- did nothing wrong at all. However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is ... a swamp in -- in -- in many ways? Yeah."
The younger Biden, along with other members of the Biden family, began to receive around-the-clock protection from the Secret Service when Joe Biden became the Democratic presidential nominee in June 2020. The family was provided a more robust security detail once the elder Biden won the presidency, which is customary for all immediate members of a president's family.
In Malibu, Hunter Biden's digs include a four-bedroom, three-bathroom "resort-style" home with an open floor plan, vaulted high ceilings, chef's kitchen and French doors, according to a description on its property listing. The mansion also features a "spacious park-like yard" with a pool, a spa, a built-in barbecue bar, and alfresco dining, according to the listing.
The property is located on 0.7 acres atop a hill, and boasts "enchanting" 180-degree panoramic ocean views, the listing says.
Next door is where sources say Biden's team of Secret Service agents are living and working.
The Spanish-style estate that the Secret Service has rented sits on a 0.7-acre lot above the Malibu coast and also features "gorgeous ocean views," according to its listing.
With six bedrooms, six bathrooms, a gym, a tasting room, a built-in barbecue, a pool, a spa, and a spiral staircase that leads up to a "castle-like tower to the master retreat with wet bar," the luxury mansion boasts "resort style living at its finest" and is "a perfect retreat for discerning clientele," its listing says.
The cost of protecting first families has raised eyebrows in the past.
In the first year of Donald Trump's presidency, the Secret Service requested $60 million of additional funding to protect Trump and his family, with about $27 million of that going to protecting them at their private residency at the Trump Tower in New York City, according to internal agency documents obtained by the Washington Post at that time.
Throughout Trump's presidency, his family business came under fire for bringing in revenue from the Secret Service by charging for space at various Trump properties across the globe that agents used while protecting Trump and his family members.
The total amount that the Secret Service has paid to Trump's family business to date is difficult to pin down, but according to an analysis by the Washington Post, records that have been released so far show that the Secret Service has spent at least $1.2 million at various Trump properties while protecting the Trump family, from $650 per night for a room at Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club to $17,000 a month for a cottage at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey.
Numerous overseas business trips taken by Trump's elder sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, also came under scrutiny during Trump's presidency for costing the Secret Service hundreds of thousands of dollars each time, records show. And the security detail that protected Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner cost taxpayers $3,000 a month for the rental of a studio apartment across from the couple's Washington, D.C., home throughout Trump's presidency, sources confirmed to ABC News at the time.
During the Obama presidency, both of President Barack Obama's daughters lived in the White House and the president himself visited his private residence in Chicago only a handful of times -- but his family made regular visits to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts and took family trips to Honolulu during Christmas, costing the Secret Service millions of dollars each time.
According to spending records obtained by the right-leaning watchdog group Judicial Watch, the Obama family's trip to Martha's Vineyard in August 2016 cost the Secret Service a whopping $2.7 million, including $2.5 million in hotels and $90,000 in rental cars, while the family's final Christmas trip to Honolulu in late 2016 cost the agency $1.9 million, including $1.8 million in hotels.
First Lady Michelle Obama's trips to Aspen in 2014, 2015 and 2016 cost the Secret Service more than $319,000 in taxpayer money, including nearly $166,000 incurred from the 2016 trip, records obtained by the group show.
And Joe Biden, as vice president during Obama's presidency, collected $2,200 a month in payments from the Secret Service by renting out a cottage on his Delaware property for the agents protecting him, according to past media reports and federal spending records.
Of the high cost sometimes associated with protecting presidential family members, Mihalek said, "I think it's all relative."
"Hunter's out in Malibu, which is not a low-cost area," said Mihalek. "And the Trump kids, too, they didn't live in low-cost areas."
Mihalek said that for the Secret Service to do their job effectively, they have to have a command post near the protectee -- even if it costs more.
"The Secret Service couldn't have a command post in the next town over," he said. "It'd do them no good."
Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at progressive good-government group Public Citizen, told ABC News that Secret Service Protection is necessary for the president and the president's family -- but that they should recognize that the agency is there for their own protection and help lower the cost to taxpayers by reducing unnecessary travel or by sharing their own properties free of charge.
"Ivanka and Jared should have opened up their house to the Secret Service, just as Hunter Biden should do at his Malibu residence," Holman said.
"Hunter should recognize the exorbitant cost of his own protection in the exclusive Malibu neighborhood, and cooperate with the Secret Service to bring down the expenses," said Holman. "A cost of $30,000 a month for the Secret Service to rent a home in Malibu next to Hunter is an unconscionable burden to taxpayers, all for the personal benefit of Hunter Biden. Hunter should realize this and accommodate his security detail in his own home."