An investigation by the Washington Post has raised questions about whether former US President Donald Trump fulfilled his oft-repeated campaign pledge to donate his entire presidential income.
On the campaign trail, Trump frequently pledged to return his executive salary to the federal government if elected president, in an effort to demonstrate his supposed vast wealth and that he could not be bought off as a politician.
The Post sought to learn whether Trump kept that promise and donated his salary at the end of his administration as he did, with much fanfare, early in his presidency. However, the analysis could not account for $220,000 of Trump’s salary donations, covering the second half of 2020 and the 20 days he served in January this year.
The Post’s David Fahrenthold, who has fastidiously tracked Trump’s personal and corporate finances, reached out to every major federal agency in order to ascertain if they had received a donation from the former president. The journalist learned that Trump’s last donation was made to the National Parks Service on July 23, 2020.
Fahrenthold suggested that Trump may have been frustrated that he was not receiving the kind of praise for his donations that he had anticipated.
“In Trump’s public comments about this promise, you can see him getting more and more bitter about it — grousing that nobody is giving him credit,” the journalist said on Twitter. “Then, in 2020, the White House stopped announcing any donations.”
In Trump’s public comments about this promise, you can see him getting more and more bitter about it — grousing that nobody is giving him credit.— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) July 30, 2021
Then, in 2020, the White House stopped announcing any donations. https://t.co/E4WcN30dL3
Critics dismissed Trump’s supposedly charitable actions as mere political theater, particularly as he infamously refused to divest from his business profits before entering the White House. Trump also continued to enrich himself with taxpayer dollars during his tenure in office by his frequent trips to several Trump Organization properties.
As a former president, Trump continues to receive a presidential pension of more than $220,000 a year, and he has not made any promises to donate that income.
Trump ordered to release tax returns
Trump’s presidential income is not the only aspect of his finances that has come under the spotlight. On Friday, the US Justice Department ordered the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to hand over Trump's tax returns to Congress.
In a memo on Friday, the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel said the House Ways and Means Committee had “invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former president’s tax information.”
The decision appears to end a long legal battle over Trump’s controversial tax records and is a sharp legal blow to the former president. The House panel sued for the records under a federal law that says the IRS “shall furnish” the returns of any taxpayer to a handful of senior members of Congress.
Republicans on Capitol Hill denounced the DOJ’s decision as politically motivated. Democrats, as expected, hailed it as a victory for the rule of law.
“Today, the Biden administration has delivered a victory for the rule of law, as it respects the public interest by complying with Chairman [Richard] Neal’s request for Donald Trump’s tax returns,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
“Access to former President Trump’s tax returns is a matter of national security. The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president,” she added.
Traditionally, presidential candidates in the United States disclose their tax returns, although they are not required by law to make the records public. Trump kept his under wraps as he ran for president in 2016, saying they were subject to IRS audit, and never released them while in office.
Democrats renewed their push to get Trump’s tax returns after they took control of the House of Representatives in 2018.
Trump fought hard in court to keep his tax returns out of the public eye. Some of the records, however, were obtained by the New York Times and showed he paid almost nothing in federal income taxes in the years before he became president.