Trump’s New Salary Promise Could Make Him the Most Expensive President in U.S. History

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2017—Donald Trump promised that he would not take a salary on several occasions before and after the election. On Monday, however, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump would instead be donating his salary to charity at the end of the year. This move would cost the U.S. Treasury more than any other presidential salary in U.S. history.

“I won’t take even one dollar,” Trump stated in September 2015. “I am totally giving up my salary if I become president.”

He repeated the statement several times throughout the campaign.

Shortly after his election, Trump went on 60 Minutes, where the issue of his $400,000 presidential salary was raised.

“Well, I’ve never commented on this, but the answer is no,” Trump told Lesley Stahl. “I think I have to by law take $1, so I’ll take $1 a year. But it’s a — I don’t even know what it is.”

Trump again changed his story in February. When asked by Politifact about Trump’s salary, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders replied with characteristic vagaries.

“He is required to get a paycheck but will be giving it back to (the) treasury or donating,” she replied and subsequently refused to answer further questions regarding the issue.

On Monday, the narrative changed again as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced that Trump’s paycheck will be donated to the charity of the White House press corps’ choice at the end of the year.

“The President’s intention right now is to donate his salary at the end of the year, and he has kindly asked that you all determine where that goes,” Spicer said.

While it may initially sound like a technicality—after all, Trump won’t be keeping the money himself—there is a very big difference to the U.S. Treasury.

For one thing, Trump will presumably be earning interest on the paycheck he collects monthly until he donates the money at the end of the year. Spicer did not say whether he would donate the interest he collects as well, but this is arguably a minor issue.

However, the choice to donate the salary to charity instead of not taking it also makes Donald Trump’s salary more expensive for the U.S. Treasury than any other previous president.

Under his current plan to donate his salary, Trump will not only be taking the $400,000 salary, but he will also be given a tax break on the donation—money that would have otherwise gone to the U.S. Treasury in the form of income taxes. Depending on Trump’s income bracket, he will be given a tax break between $140,000 and $156,000 on the $400,000 donation. In the end, Trump’s salary will cost the Treasury between $540,000 and $556,000, making Trump the highest-costing president in U.S. History.

However, this will only happen if Trump ends up donating his salary. Through the years, he has promised to donate over $45,000,000 in salaries, proceeds and other fees. However, in reality, he has only donated about $7,800,000.


Featured image: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera, Flickr Creative Commons