As a candidate and after the election, Donald Trump touted the fact that we would refuse a salary as president. The Constitution and Federal laws say that the POTUS is to be paid $400,000 annually, split into monthly payments – payments that Trump promised to forfeit. However, the White House has declined to say if he has followed through with his promise.
Last November, president-elect Trump told CBS, “I think I have to by law take $1, so I’ll take $1 a year.” He vowed to either return his pay to the Treasury or to donate the money to charity. While many supporters jumped to celebrate Trump’s gesture, some outlets, like Politico, said the move would be a mistake:
“We are beholden to the people who pay us. In Hamilton’s words, ‘he who pays is the master.’ Donald Trump understands that as well as anyone—and in his refusal to take the people’s paycheck, he’s telling us who he intends to be master for the next four years. Believe him. And then let him know that’s not the way this works.”
As George Washington attempted to refuse pay, the Framers of the Constitution argued the need for presidential pay. In Federalist 73, Alexander Hamilton said, “a power over a man’s support is a power over his will.” Essentially, without being paid by the country, the President opened himself up to corruption by being paid by an outside force.
Despite those arguments, Washington, Herbert Hoover, and John F. Kennedy all did not accept their paychecks. Washington did not want to set a precedent, so he took a much smaller sum than allowed, while Hoover and Kennedy donated salaries. All three of those men were multi-millionaires (in today’s funds), but Trump is by far the richest. Despite the absence of the President’s tax returns, Forbes puts Trump’s net worth around $3.7 billion (with his largest assets in real estate).
According to the pay scale, Trump should have been paid $33,333 around February 20th, with his next check due on March 20th. However, MSNBC has requested information regarding Trump’s pay and whether or not he donated the money. So far, their requests have not garnered any answers.
Trump’s law firm assigned to tackle any of the moguls’ business conflicts, Morgan Lewis, also detailed that any money earned from foreign governments that use Trump’s businesses would be donated to the Treasury Department. However, that plan has also not been detailed.
$400,000 is paltry amount of money (around 0.0001% of his wealth) compared to the fortunes Trump and his family stand to gain from his position as POTUS. Between tax breaks and potential interference from lobbyists, the Trump family business will most certainly profit from its namesake sitting in the Oval Office.
Ultimately, if Trump is accepting the $400,000 or not, it is won’t be huge part of his bankroll. But it does show a blatant disregard to the millions that stand to be worse off under his policies. It also shows that no matter what he told supporters to get them to rally around him, he has no plan to stick to his promises.