WASHINGTON — Will President Trump award himself a fortune in coronavirus bailout money? On Sunday he was asked that question directly, and his answer boiled down to: Maybe.
“Let’s just see what happens,” Trump said.
Trump refused to promise that he wouldn’t hand himself a slice of the crisis funds during a press conference while Congress was still racing to put the finishing touches on what might be the largest U.S. economic stimulus package in American history.
The bill could unleash trillions in spending. A tiny fraction of it could easily double Trump’s fortune, or keep his real estate company from going bankrupt in a looming economic downturn.
Asked point-blank about that possibility on Sunday evening, Trump took the opportunity to complain that he doesn’t get enough credit for declining his presidential salary and insisted he’d be earning even more than the $400 million-plus he reported in 2018 if he hadn’t won the presidency.
“It cost me billions of dollars to be president of the United States,” Trump said. “I committed publicly that I wouldn’t take the $450,000 salary. It’s a lot of money, whether you’re rich or not, it’s a lot of money. And I did it. Nobody cared. Nobody said, ‘thank you.’”
Democrats have blasted Trump for raking in millions while president, and sued unsuccessfully to get a look at his finances.
They’ve launched investigations into his business empire and subpoenaed his tax returns, while trying to figure out whether he may be financially compromised by any deep-pocketed foreign interests. Trump’s hotel in D.C. has been an especially contentious issue because of its popularity among foreign diplomats and lobbyists.
Asked if he sold stock before the recent market downturn, Trump said he hadn’t, and then criticized the reporter for asking a “nasty question.”
Trump’s finances are notoriously murky and he’s fought hard in court to keep them that way, but the available evidence suggests he might easily be making more money as president than he would have if he’d just stayed a normal businessman.
His resorts are famous for charging big fees for his secret service detail when they travel there with Trump, and for attracting foreign leaders looking to make a good impression on the White House.
Trump reported earnings of over $400 million in 2018, including $76 million from his Trump National Doral golf resort in Florida and $41 million from his Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, right down the road from the White House.
Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump pauses as he speaks during a Coronavirus Task Force news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, March 22, 2020. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)