Trump Flip Flops on Pledge

President Donald J. Trump

“I won’t take even one dollar. I am totally giving up my salary if I become president,” Trump said in December 2015. Now, apparently, he has backslid on that promise as he plans to bank the $400,000 annual salary. The White House, however, said the billionaire would donate every single dime to a yet-to-be-determined beneficiary.

After nearly two months of service, the president’s two first paychecks amount to more than $50,000. White House’s spokesman Sean Spicer told the press that the money would go to charity by the end of the year.

Trump Asks Press to Determine Recipient

When one reporter asked him about the president’s repeated pledges not to take any salary, Spicer said it is in Trump’s “intention” to donate all of it at the end of the year. Trump reportedly asked the White House press corps to “help determine” where the money should go. This way the administration would fend off any unnecessary scrutiny.

In all seriousness… he made a pledge to the American people, he wants to donate it to charity and he’d love your help to determine where it should go,

Spicer told reporters gathered in the White House briefing room Monday.

U.S. presidents have been earning $33,333 monthly or $400,000 annually since 2001. In Spicer’s Monday speech, there was no indication that the current president would renounce compensation. Last fall, Trump pledged to take a symbolic salary of $1 per year because the Constitution requires him to take some sort of compensation. But now, he seems to have changed his mind.

In 2015, the real estate tycoon told supporters during a Q&A session that he wouldn’t take “even one dollar”. During the same week, he pledged before a crowd of supporters in Oklahoma that he would work for America for free. He repeatedly said that he didn’t want the salary and acknowledged that he didn’t even know what the presidential salary was.

Trump’s Repeated Pledges to Forgo Compensation

Shortly after he won the election in November, he said on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he was obliged “by law” to take some kind of compensation, so he said he would take $1 dollar a year. Seconds later, the then-president-elect repeatedly said that he would not take the salary.

Trump was right that under the U.S. law, a president must receive payment for his services. In Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, it is stated that U.S. presidents must receive “at all times” a compensation for their services. Moreover, that compensation should not increase nor go lower during a president’s mandate. U.S. presidents, however, are barred under the U.S. Constitution from receiving “any other emolument” from the U.S. government.

When Spicer invited reporters to pick a beneficiary of the donation, one journalist suggested the White House Correspondent’s Association would be a good place to start. The money could be used for “journalism scholarships,” the reporter added.

Spicer’s response came one day after MSNBC announced that it had asked details from the White House, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Treasury Department about Trump’s first paycheck (the president received his first paycheck on Feb. 20) and if he had donated it as he had promised.  All three declined to comment (OPM told MSNBC to refer to the White House.)

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