President Donald Trump had promised, at least as far back as September 2015, not to receive a salary as President.
On September 17th, at a town hall meeting in Rochester, New Hampshire, he said: “The first thing I’m going to do is tell you that if I’m elected President, I’m accepting no salary, OK?.”
Following up with the humble brag “That’s no big deal for me.”
In the same month, he got on Twitter, saying “As far as salary is concerned, I won’t take even one dollar” and “I am totally giving up my salary if I become President.”
Constitutionally, he couldn’t quite keep that promise. Article 2, Section 1 reads “The President shall, at stated times, receive for his services, a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.”
However, he could follow in the tradition of past Presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Hoover who donated their Presidential salaries to charity.
John F. Kennedy gave to hospitals, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the United Negro College Fund, The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, and the Cuban Families Committee. What’s the charity of Trump’s choice?
The federal government.
Yesterday, Trump announced the donation of his first quarter salary to preserving a portion of Antietam, a Civil War battlefield in Maryland. Specifically, it’s earmarked to restore the Newcomer House, used to treat wounded Union soldiers after the bloodiest one-day battle in American history. The battle itself saw 22,717 dead, wounded, or missing, and repelled the Confederates from Maryland. Days later, Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation.
In context, Trump’s donation was $78,333.32, and other donors upped that total to $264,213 to repair the house and replace a fence.
Trump’s first proposed budget to Congress would have cut the National Park Service’s budget by roughly $350 million dollars.
On the other hand, Jason Chaffetz and others in Congress have introduced proposals to sell off certain federal lands which could address NPS’s $11 billion dollars national maintenance backlog.
Trump has officially rejected such plans, however, saying he opposes such transfers with “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great.”
President Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, who announced Trump’s decision about his donation yesterday, said during his confirmation hearing that “I am an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt, and believe he had a right when he placed under federal protection millions of our acres of federal lands and set aside much of it as our national forest,” and that “I am absolutely against transfer or sale of public lands. I can’t be more clear.”.
Many have dismissed President Trump’s donation as a publicity stunt, given his overall policy on the NPS budget, but it is in keeping with his campaign promise on refusing his salary, at least to the extent the Constitution allows.
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