One of Republican presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump’s early campaign promises was to refuse to take his salary. It was one he repeated often. For example, in September 2015, Trump tweeted:
“As far as salary is concerned, I won’t take even one dollar. I am totally giving up my salary if I become president.”
As we know, Trump went on to win the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and opponents were quick to condemn the new American leader for breaking his word. A feisty headline ran two weeks before the close of the first annual fiscal quarter. On March 13, 2017, an unhappy and impatient observer griped:
“Trump continues to take salary despite promise, says he’ll donate money later – This isn’t the first time he’s broken that promise.”
Quoting the president-elect’s first big interview in November 2017, Trump had gone on record again about his federal paycheck:
“No, I’m not gonna take the salary. I’m not taking it.”
It turns out that the president could not legally keep his campaign pledge because the U.S. Constitution (the law of the land) contains a Compensation Clause. Article 2, Section 1, Clause 7 says the president must receive a fixed salary during his time in office, which cannot be changed, eliminated, or refused during the duration of his presidency.
The idea behind this law, according to Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, was to keep the nation’s top leader financially free from outside forces because, “They can neither weaken his fortitude by operating on his necessities, nor corrupt his integrity by appealing to his avarice.”
Billionaire Trump has shown everyone through many progressive actions that his fortitude is just fine – and he honestly does not need the extra income to maintain his lifestyle in the fashion to which he has grown accustomed.
The job of U.S. President has an annual salary, before taxes, of $400,000 a year. Upon learning of the constitutional requirement to accept payment for his services in office, Trump announced that “he would accept $1 and either give the rest back to the U.S. Treasury or donate it to charity.”
The nation’s leader has honored that promise in spirit, if not to the letter, by making donations to help fund a variety of federal projects each and every three months he gets paid.
Here’s a breakdown of President Trump’s salary donations since he took office through the first quarter of 2018:
2017Q1 $78,333 (his $100,000 salary for that quarter, after taxes) to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Parks Service towards two projects at Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland.
When officials from the U.S. Interior Department met with Sean Spicer on April 3, 2017, they acted a bit surprised when President Trump’s Press Secretary announced:
“I want to just give you a quick update on something I know in the past there’s been several questions about the President donating his salary to charity…To that end, the President has spoken with Counsel and made the decision to donate his first-quarter salary, in total, to a government entity, and he has chosen this quarter to donate it to the National Park Service.”
Spicer went on to cite the Park Service’s contribution to the preservation of our nation and its national security since 1916. He said the President was proud to help out. Spicer then got to the point:
“So it is my pleasure, on behalf of the President of the United States, to present a check for $78,333 to the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, and Superintendent of the Harper’s Ferry Park site, Superintendent Brandyburg.”
Someone in the room quipped, “After taxes?” and when Spicer answered that the offer was “straight up,” he got as far as, “It is every penny that the President received from the first quarter since the day he was —” someone said, “But it’s not a full quarter.” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was quick to jump in with, “We think it will cash, though.”
Critics like the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune, looked a gift horse squarely in the mouth and called Trump’s “giant fake check” a “publicity stunt” and “sad consolation prize” because Trump’s new budget proposed to cut Interior’s budget by $1.5 billion (12 percent).
2017Q2 $78,333 to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) camp for children, overseen by the U.S. Department of Education.
At a White House press briefing held on July 26, 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos accepted the cash gift. At the time, no firm plans were in place and Trump asked around for suggestions to make a winning program.
A year later, DeVos visited the Smithsonian’s “She Can” STEM Summer Camp where “students learned about the science of flight and were exposed to a wide array of aviation-related activities and career paths.”
The Secretary of Education worked alongside sixth- through eighth-grade girls “to build and fly their own drones, was a passenger in an FAA-certified flight simulator and toured the Boeing Aviation Hangar.”
Pretty cool, huh?
2017Q3 $78,333 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a public awareness campaign about opioid addiction.
The Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse was introduced in March 2018 as a new plan with several goals targeting public awareness and legal consequences.
Among the program’s highlights:
• Launch a nationwide evidence-based campaign to raise public awareness about the dangers of prescription and illicit opioid use, as well as other drug use.
• Keep dangerous drugs out of the United States by securing land borders, ports of entry, and waterways against illegal smuggling.
• Reduce the over-prescription of opioids which has the potential to lead Americans down a path to addiction or facilitate diversion to illicit use.
• Fund research and development efforts for innovative technologies and additional therapies to combat addiction and manage pain from drug withdrawal. Develop a vaccine against opioid addiction.
• Enforce the existing death penalty against hard-core drug dealers.
2017Q4 $78,333 to an infrastructure grant program overseen by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao broke the news that President Trump would donate his net fourth quarter 2017 salary to help fund a new grant program for public and private physical improvements – like roads, bridges, tunnels, water supply, and sewers.
The project, called Infrastructure for Building America, “will reward state and local governments that have raised their own funds before asking for federal help.”
The new program has a planned $1.5 billion budget to distribute free grant money to Make America Great again by fixing the roads and bridges.
2018Q1 full salary to the Department of Veterans Affairs to assist caregiver programs.
On May 17, 2018, Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that President Trump would continue his salary donation into the New Year. The recipient of his generosity was the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs).
Then-acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie added more detail. The Commander-in-Chief’s first quarter 2018 salary donation would help “caregiver support in the form of mental health and peer support programs, financial aid, education training, and research.”
There you have it. President Donald J. Trump is a man who tells it like it is. What a refreshing change from the White House.
As for the nay-sayers and boo-hooers, remember the famous words of President Abraham Lincoln who was quoting poet John Lydgate:
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
All we know is that honesty and generosity are their own rewards. And midterms are coming.