WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has chosen to donate his salary for the first quarter of the year – $78,333 – to the National Park Service, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a briefing Monday afternoon.
“It is every penny that the president received from the first quarter to the day,” Spicer said. “It’s from Jan. 20, noon, forward.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who attended the news conference, said that the money would be put toward the maintenance of historic battlefields. The park service maintains dozens of sites connected to battlefields of the Civil War and other conflicts.
“We’re going to dedicate it and put it against the infrastructure of our nation’s battlefields,” Zinke said. “We’re about $229 million behind in deferred maintenance on our battlefields alone.”
That announcement marked another change in the president’s plans for his $400,000 annual salary.
During the presidential campaign, Trump had said he would not accept a salary if he won the White House. But the Constitution requires the president to be paid, so – after his election – Trump’s spokespeople said he would give the money away instead.
But then, on March 13, Spicer said that Trump would not actually donate the money until the end of the year. Spicer also said that Trump had not selected a charity to receive the money, and asked the news media to help the president choose.
On Monday, however, the recipient had been chosen and the donation had been made.
“The president has spoken with counsel and made the decision to make his first quarter salary in total to a government entity,” Spicer said. “He has chosen this quarter to donate it to the National Park Service.”
The actual donation check was shown during the briefing. It listed Trump personally as the payer, with an address at Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York.
Spicer said the choice of the park service – and, in particular, the battleground parks – was made by the president himself.
“It’s a decision he made. Counsel presented him with several options. He believed . . . some great work is being done there, especially work being done to restore our great battlegrounds,” Spicer said.
Earlier this year, Trump proposed a presidential budget that would cut the Interior Department’s funding by 12 percent, a cut of $1.5 billion.
Trump also began his presidency in a feud with the National Park Service, which controls the Mall in Washington, D.C. – and which tweeted out photos of Trump’s inauguration that made it obvious the crowd was smaller than it had been for President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. The morning after his inauguration, Trump called the park service’s acting director to demand the service produce more photographs, which might show the crowd was indeed larger than average.
The director did procure more photos, and sent them to the White House. They did not, however, prove that Trump’s crowd was as large as the president claimed.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · David A. Fahrenthold