Trump is still collecting taxpayer funds

The former president made a promise to donate the entirety of his presidential salary. Now he is cashing in

By Jon Skolnik
Published May 20, 2021 2:14PM (EDT)
 (Getty/NosUA/Ron Sachs - Pool/Salon)
(Getty/NosUA/Ron Sachs - Pool/Salon)

Despite Donald Trump's alleged status as one of the richest men in America, the former president had reportedly has been raking in tens of thousands of dollars in federal pension payments since January. 

Back in 2015, Trump made a campaign promise to donate the entirety of his yearly presidential salary up until the end of his term. The former president has apparently made good on this promise, writing personal checks to various federal agencies since then, including the Department of Interior's National Park Service, the National Park Service, the Department of Education, and more. 

But according to an Insider report, Trump cannot say the same when it comes to his federal pensions. The General Services Administration told Insider that Trump has collected $65,600 through May 14 – and it's not clear how he's using it.  

The presidential pension program started back in 1958, when the Former Presidents Act (FPA) was passed, which entitles former presidents to a package of lifetime benefits, including medical insurance, a Secret Service detail, private staff, and pensions. The first former presidents to receive such benefits were Herbert Hoover and Harry S. Truman. 

Presidents are now legally required to accept a yearly salary, but pensions are optional. As of 2021, presidents may receive $221,400 in pension money, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management

Many critics of the FPA have argued that former presidents have no need for the benefits, since the vast majority of them are already independently wealthy, according to the Congressional Research Service. In May of this year, Forbes found that Donald Trump had a net worth of $2.4 billion. Furthermore, every living former president, including the nation's current president, is a multimillionaire. 

Before Trump took office, he claimed that his net worth was over $10 million, which was later found to be false. During the first three years of his presidency, the former president's businesses raked in $1.9 billion in revenue, according to Forbes, with much of this money stemming from his commercial real estate ventures. 

But Bloomberg found back in March that Trump's net worth had in fact plummeted from $3 billion to $2.3 billion over the course of his presidency. That same month, the Washington Post found that Trump's "hotels, resorts, and other properties" had lost over $120 million in revenue last year. His Washington hotel and Doral resort in Miami respectively suffered from 60% and 44% drops in overall revenue. 

The President is currently using taxpayer funds to employ 17 staffers to assist with post-transition activities, according to Insider. His staff is expected to collect approximately $1.3 million of this money. 

In the past, Trump has received other pension payments, including those of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in 2019.

Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, AlterNet, and The New York Daily News.

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