It started, as things often do, with a social media post.
On my Facebook page, I noted that a number of celebrities had pledged money to hospitals to help combat coronavirus, and I questioned why our billionaire president had not done the same. A conservative friend countered with a meme claiming that Donald J. Trump had donated his presidential salary to the fight against the deadly virus.
I didn’t recall hearing about this before, and since our president does nothing without giving himself a great deal of fanfare, I looked it up. There it was in a tweet from mostly MIA press secretary Stephanie Grisham, dated March 3 — Super Tuesday — at 1:38 p.m. The tweet was accompanied by a facsimile of a check written from Trump’s personal Capital One account in the amount of $100,000, payable to “Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.” It was dated Jan. 29, the same day Trump created a coronavirus task force.
The president, however, continued to downplay concerns about the impact of the pandemic and didn’t declare a national emergency until March 13.
The day before the tweet, Trump was holding forth at a rally in Charlotte, N.C. where he boasted about the Dow Jones average gaining nearly 1,300 points after a seven-day decline in which it had dropped more than 3,500 points.
Two days later, on March 5, Trump appeared at a Fox News Town Hall meeting in Scranton, Pa., hometown of Democratic front-runner Joe Biden (and me). A transcript issued by the White House shows Trump giving evasive answers to questions about long-term planning for the coronavirus onslaught. He did not mention his donation at either of those events, although it would have been natural for him to do so.
Only a few media outlets addressed Grisham’s announcement, including CNBC, CNN, Fox News, USA Today and the New York Post. The latter, to its credit, noted that the sum wouldn’t go very far toward fighting the pandemic.
This raises a number of questions:
- The last quarter of 2019 ended on Dec. 31. The money stayed in Trump’s personal account until Jan. 29 at the earliest. Was he not planning to donate his salary, as he had done in the past?
- Why was the contribution not announced on Twitter until March 3 — when it was likely to be overshadowed by news of Super Tuesday? How did Grisham get a facsimile of the check?
- Why not even a manufactured quote from the president with this announcement?
- Finally — does Trump REALLY bank at Capital One?