The White House reported on Tuesday that President Donald Trump donated his salary to the Department of Health and Human Services at a time when the agency is responding to the global outbreak of the coronavirus.
Stephanie Grisham, White House press secretary, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday:
‘President @realDonaldTrump made a commitment to donate his salary while in office. Honoring that promise and to further protect the American people, he is donating his 2019 Q4 salary to @HHSGov to support the efforts being undertaken to confront, contain, and combat #Coronavirus.’
A few days ago, the president faced backlash for his initial reaction to the outbreak when he showed up to go against health officials in his administration about the extent of the virus.
At a rally last week, Trump expressed concerns about the virus as a “hoax,” and then later said he was only referring to the Democratic response to the outbreak.
When he was still running for office, Trump said he wouldn’t accept his $400,000 annual presidential salary if elected. But because it is stated in the constitution that he has to be paid under law, he made it a habit to donate the payment to different areas of the federal government. Trump has donated his salary to HHS before, including during his first year in office.
Despite this action, Trump’s critics mocked the gift.
Robert Maguire, research director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted:
“This is a meaningless gimmick.”
“President Trump’s decision not to divest his businesses netted him $434 million in personal revenue in 2018 alone – the last year for which data is available. That’s a thousand times more than his presidential salary.”
According to reports, This is not the first time the president has donated his salary to an agency facing a huge problem. Since his presidency, Trump has directed his $400,000 annual salary to a different agency each quarter.
Previous donations were received, among others, by the Office of the Surgeon General to help combat the opioid epidemic, by the Department of Homeland Security to help build a wall on the southern border, and by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, to help combat alcoholism.
The decision to donate his salary back to the government each quarter was an act to fulfill his campaign promise in 2016. As the wealthiest man in the modern era to take the seat at the president’s office, Trump is in a unique position to do this. In 2018, the most recent year for which figures are available, Trump earned a minimum of $434 million in annual income on his federal ethics forms.
Confirmed cases of coronavirus are still rising globally. As of Tuesday, the coronavirus had killed nine Americans in Washington state, and more than 100 Americans tested positive since the outbreak was first confirmed in the United States in February. More than 91,000 cases have been reported worldwide including more than 3,100 deaths.