Claim: Donald Trump works for no money
As President Donald Trump receives criticism for how he has handled the coronavirus pandemic, his backers have taken to social media to show their support.
One topic that comes up is that Trump works for no money and donates the entirety of his presidential salary.
A Facebook post from May that has amassed over 100,000 shares reads: “I want to thank Donald Trump for working like a dog for no money to save a country that doesn’t appreciate his sacrifice! Thank you Mr. President!”
Posts of that nature contain a degree of truth, but are misleading.
Trump, as promised during his campaign, does write checks to various agencies equivalent to a quarter of his annual salary every quarter. But this does not mean he earns no money.
This notion is misleading because Trump continues to profit off of real estate he owns or manages, despite lawsuits arguing that this violates the Constitution's emoluments clauses.
Trump has donated his presidential salary
Trump is not the first president to donate his salary. Former Presidents John F. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover, both wealthy before they took office, donated all their earnings. Forbes reports Trump’s net worth as of July 9 at $2.1 billion, making him the first president to be a billionaire.
When Trump announced his decision to forgo a salary, critics expressed doubt because presidents are required to be compensated for their work. To get around this, Trump takes $1 each year from his paychecks.
According to news coverage and White House news releases, Trump has written checks equal to a quarter of his $400,000 annual salary every quarter to various government agencies:
Trump and his constituents have not yet announced where he will donate his salary for the first and second quarters of 2020.
The president came under scrutiny for donating $100,000 to the Department of Health and Human Services after proposing a 10% budget cut totaling billions of dollars. He’s also proposed cuts totaling amounts larger than his donations for the National Parks Service and the Department of Education.
Federal law bars donations to most federal agencies
Federal regulations bar many government agencies from accepting donations unless approved by Congress. If Congress does not approve them, the money goes to the Treasury Department's general fund.
“While gifts to the United States do not require statutory authority, gifts to an individual federal agency stand on a different footing," the law says. "The rule is that a government agency may not accept for its own use (i.e., for retention by the agency or credit to its own appropriations) gifts of money or other property in the absence of specific statutory authority ... As the Comptroller General said in that decision, “(w)hen the Congress has considered desirable the receipt of donations . . . it has generally made specific provision therefor . . . . Thus, acceptance of a gift of money or other property by an agency lacking statutory authority to do so is an improper augmentation. If an agency does not have statutory authority to accept donations of money, it must turn the money in to the Treasury as miscellaneous receipts.”
Despite these regulations White House spokesman Judd Deere confirmed to USA TODAY that all of the federal agencies to which Trump has donated have received the money.
Trump still earns money
Trump still profits off property he owns, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington and Trump Tower in New York. He also earns money from the rights to a U.K. television spinoff of "The Apprentice" and various properties in the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Scotland and the Philippines. So imprecise claims that Trump works for “no money” are not totally accurate.
Democratic lawmakers are appealing a case against the president because they believe that this profiting, combined with the fact that “his hotels have reportedly been frequented by foreign diplomats from around the world since his term began,” as The Hill reported, violates the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses of the Constitution.
The foreign emoluments clause states that no government official can receive gifts from king, prince or foreign state. The domestic emoluments similarly says the president cannot receive “any other Emolument (beyond a fixed salary) from the United States, or any of them.”
For example, the New York Times reported the government of Kuwait spent tens of thousands of dollars on a gala at the Trump International Hotel in Washington from which Trump profited. The “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia owns a floor and pays thousands of dollars a year in common charges for building amenities” at the Trump World Tower in New York, from which Trump also profits.
Our ruling: Partly false
While it’s true that President Donald Trump has donated his salary to different federal agencies throughout his term, he still profits off of real estate and other business dealings. It would be false to say he works for “no money.” For this reason, we rate the claim as PARTLY FALSE.
Our fact-check sources:
Facebook post, May 24, 2020
PolitiFact, “Trump donates 2019 salary to USDA, surgeon general,” Aug. 19, 2019
Politico, “Trump botches a boast about giving away his presidential salary,” Oct. 21, 2019
House Hearing, 106 Congress “Salary of the President of the United States”
Cornell Law School, “3 U.S. Code § 102.Compensation of the President”
White House Press Briefing, April 3, 2017
White House Press Briefing, Nov. 30, 2017
White House Press Briefing, Feb. 13, 2018
White House Press Briefing, May 17, 2018
USA TODAY, “President Trump donates $100,000 of his salary to Surgeon General's office,” Aug. 16, 2019
Tweet from President Donald Trump, March 18, 2019
AgriPulse, “Trump to donate Q1 salary to USDA,” May 16, 2019
PBS NewsHour, “Trump donates his 3rd-quarter salary to fight the opioid epidemic,” Nov. 26, 2019
Tweet from Kayleigh McEnay, March 3, 2020
The Washington Post, “Trump seeks to slash $8.5 billion from Education Department budget,” March 11, 2019
The Office of the General Counsel, “Principles of Federal Appropriations Law”
Congressional Research Service, “The Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution,” May 26, 2020
The New York Times, “Trump Still Makes Money From His Properties. Is This Constitutional?” July 10, 2019
The Hill, "Democrats ask Supreme Court to hear emoluments case against Trump," July 6, 2020
Email from Judd Deere, White House spokesperson, July 8, 2019
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Donald Trump donates salary, but he still makes money