What if I stole $50,000 from you and then donated $1,000 to your favorite charity? Would you thank me or call the police?
Donald Trump’s followers frequently extol his generosity and defend his integrity by stating that he donates his presidential salary to charity. Indeed, he gives his salary to various causes. But Trump’s supporters do not realize they are getting scammed. The real Donald Trump is a grifter, not a gifter.
Trump frequently employs strategies from his con artist playbook. He throws his base bones to distract them from his most egregious misconduct. By creating the impression that he is a giving person, they disbelieve that he would fleece them. And it works. His small act of generosity causes his supporters to doubt his more significant acts of swindling that make the salary donations immaterial. It is a deftly executed scheme.
Trump relies on people who believe everything he tells them and do not fact check information or think critically. He degrades the news media, especially nonpartisan watchdogs, because they expose his lies. That is why he works tirelessly to discredit them. But in an era where factless social media memes, baseless twitter rants, and insane conspiracy theories trump reputable investigative journalism, Trump’s sleight of hand fools millions of low-information voters.
Trump receives a presidential salary of $400,000 per year. Let us assume Trump donates all four years of his salary for a total of $1.6 million.
The U.S. Constitution prevents a president from profiting from personal business, politicians, or foreign governments while holding office. As a result, prior presidents divested from their business interests and invited nonpartisan oversight. Not Trump. He kept his assets, such as his properties, in a family-managed trust, which he can revoke after his presidency and keep the profits earned while he is in office. Interested parties understand this arrangement, so they stay at his properties to curry his favor.
This chart from the nonpartisan, independent nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics reveals that Trump properties have directly received more than $22 million from committees, elected officials, and the Republican Party. The chart also shows that he received almost no such money in the years prior to running for office. None of the events that created a windfall of revenue for Trump needed to be held at Trump’s properties–and if Trump were ethical, he would have refused to use his properties to avoid any conflict of interest. Trump electing to donate $1.6 million while raking in $22 million from taxpayers and politicians should earn him condemnation, not praise.
The Washington Post uncovered an additional $470,000 of undisclosed government spending at Trump’s properties, and they allege that the figure is much higher, but the government agencies will not release the data.
Trump does not just fleece taxpayers. In 2019, Trump was found guilty of stealing from the Trump Charitable Foundation to settle personal business debts. A judge required Trump to pay $2 million to eight charities and shut down his foundation. The settlement included 19 admitted acts of wrongdoing from Trump, including using $10,000 of the charity’s money to buy a portrait of himself that he hung at one of his hotels.
Trump has made a career of taking advantage of people. He started a fake real estate “university” that sold customers a bill of goods. They sued, and Trump paid $25 million to 7,000 victims of his fraud. A Trump sales executive called his university “a total lie” and a Trump University manager called it “a fraudulent scheme.”
The nonprofit, bipartisan watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington documented Trump’s unprecedented 3,158 conflicts of interest during his presidency. The list of violations is staggering and should outrage every American.
Trump, who said he would be too busy working in D.C. to take vacations, has spent one-third of his days in office vacationing at his properties. He has refused to be transparent about government spending at his hotels and resorts. But it is clear that he has been paying himself with our tax dollars far more than any salary donations he flaunts.
Trump would have shamelessly made even more money off taxpayers if permitted. In 2019, Trump tried to schedule the G7 Summit at his Doral property in Miami until he faced a bipartisan backlash. Even his rabid congressional super fans could not stomach such a gross ethics violation.
None of these abuses of power account for how much the Trump children and Jared Kushner have profited off his presidency. Since they also have no shame and obsess over their wealth, they have used Trump’s office to maximize their income unethically.
Trump’s crony cabinet also follows his example. He has paved the way for rampant corruption in his administration. For example, Trump’s EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt resigned after using our tax dollars as his personal bank account. Trump filled his cabinet with unqualified lackeys who put their interests ahead of the American people, and he permitted them to run roughshod at taxpayers’ expense. Even his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is now under investigation for inappropriately using our tax dollars–or at least he was until Trump fired the State Department’s inspector general charged with investigating him.
Trump boasted in 2016 that he was going to drain the swamp. He flooded it.
Imagine the audacity it takes for Trump’s press secretary to show off a check he donated while Trump steals millions of dollars from taxpayers.
Trump hugs and kisses the American flag because he knows it appeals to his supporters’ most basic patriotic instincts. But he does not love America; he loves taking advantage of it. The real Donald Trump is a fraud.