White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday confirmed reports that President Donald Trump has not been donating his salary to charity as he promised he would during the campaign. Instead, Spicer said, Trump is waiting until the end of the year to donate a lump sum in part so that the media can weigh in on the beneficiary.
While on the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly promised he would not accept the presidential paycheck.
“As far as the salary is concerned, I won’t take even one dollar,” Trump said in a September 2015 Twitter Q&A. “I am totally giving up my salary if I become president.”
Trump amended his pledge shortly after his Election Day victory, saying that although the president is constitutionally obligated to draw a salary, he wouldn’t take more than a perfunctory dollar.
“I think I have to by law take $1, so I’ll take $1 a year,” Trump told “60 Minutes.” “But it’s a — I don’t even know what it is. Do you know what the salary is?”
When told it was $400,000 a year, Trump responded, “No, I’m not gonna take the salary. I’m not taking it.”
But Trump has been taking the salary, which is paid on a monthly basis. In February, deputy White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the website PolitiFact that Trump would either send his paychecks back to the Treasury or donate them. So far, Trump has received one paycheck of $33,333 and is set to receive another March 20.
(The White House has also so far declined to clarify whether Trump is fulfilling his pledge to avoid conflicts of interest by donating payments made from foreign governments to his various businesses.)
“The president’s intention right now is to donate his salary at the end of the year, and has kindly asked that you all help determine where that goes,” Spicer said at the Monday press conference. “That way that we can avoid scrutiny is to let the press corps determine where it should go.”
The assembled reporters laughed.
“In all seriousness,” Spicer continued, “I think his view is, he made a pledge to the American people, he wants to donate it to charity, and he’d love your help to determine where it should go.”
Trump has an extraordinarily contentious relationship with the news media; last month, he called it “a great danger to our country.” He has also denigrated specific outlets like CNN and the New York Times that are represented in the White House Press Corps.
Nevertheless, Spicer said one reporter’s suggestion Monday that Trump’s salary be used to fund a White House Correspondents’ Association journalism scholarship would be “a great way to do it.”