President Office of Donald Trump: Facts, Operations and Missions
|Former President Donald Trump and Melania Trump arriving in Florida last week. (Photo: AP)|
What is Trump's "Office of the Former President"?
Former President Donald Trump announced Monday the official opening of the "Office of the Former President" in Palm Beach County, Florida, which is tasked with overseeing the 45th president's official activities in his post-presidency life.
Trump and former first lady Melania Trump departed Washington for Florida the morning of January 20, choosing not to welcome President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden to the White House and skipping the new president's inauguration.
Trump's office has set up shop in Florida, where the former president retired last Wednesday. He can rely on funding granted via the Former Presidents Act, which provides seven months of aid. The act also funds staff for a further 30 months, but he could lose this if his impeachment goes as Democrats hope.
The former president's ability to communicate publicly after leaving office was complicated by his removal from numerous social media platforms — including his favored platform, Twitter — after the US Capitol siege on January 6. He still was barred from posting when announcing the new office from his base in Palm Beach, Florida.
|Donald Trump and Melania Trump boarding Air Force One to head to Florida on January 20. (Photo: Getty)|
Mission & Responsibility of Trump's Office of the Former President
Presidents in the US conduct their business with the Executive Office of the President of the United States. The office supports Biden and his administration and keeps the country running along his policy lines from the West Wing. The Office of the Former President has a similar function, except it attempts to influence policy rather than govern it, Express.co cited.
All Presidents may set up an office that enables them to develop their work post-Commander in Chief, directing public appearances, official activities, and more. Trump's new office will do much the same while also coordinating "public activism". In a short statement, one of the first made on Trump's behalf since he left office, the office said he would continue to be a "champion for the American people". They said: "The Office will be responsible for managing President Trump’s correspondence, public statements, appearances, and official activities to advance the interests of the United States and to carry on the agenda of the Trump administration through advocacy, organizing, and public activism."
Without access to his Twitter account, which the company banned following the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol and Facebook, Mr. Trump has been quiet and forced to rely on more traditional vehicles to reach the public and the press in his final days in office. Twitter announced on January 8 it decided to ban Mr. Trump's account "due to the risk of further incitement of violence" and limited the use of two other official accounts, which have since been transferred to Mr. Biden for use. Facebook, too, locked Mr. Trump's account indefinitely following the attack on the Capitol, though it is asking its independent oversight board to make a final decision on whether the former president should regain access to his account on Facebook and Instagram.
A post-presidency office allows commanders in chief to formally continue advocacy and relay messages to the American public — one of the many perks enjoyed by former presidents.
|Former President Donald Trump announced Monday the official opening of the "Office of the Former President" (Photo: Getty)|
How is Trump funding his office?
There are plenty of perks for former presidents — access to classified briefings, Secret Service protection, and even the use of a Presidential Townhouse in Washington DC. There are also several financial benefits for anyone who has been in the top job. Former presidents are funded for the costs of leaving office under the Presidential Transition Act, but just for seven months, including one month before they leave the White House. That can include the money needed to run and set up a new office.
After that, the Former Presidents Act kicks in for another 30 months, helping to fund staff, but that's limited. Total annual basic compensation for staff assistance can't go over $US150,000. Former presidents can supplement staff compensation, and fund additional employees, from private money. The same law also lets former presidents choose their own staff and says they should be "responsible only to him for the performance of their duties." Then there's also a lifetime pension, which for Trump is set around $US219,000 a year. Given that he donated his salary during his time in office, Trump might choose to skip these new financial benefits in his life out of the presidential spotlight.
The Former Presidents Act of 1958 provides several benefits and perks that are available to presidents after they leave the office. The biggest personal benefit that former presidents are entitled to be an annual pension equal to the pay for a Cabinet Secretary, which is $221,400 in 2021. Widows of former presidents are eligible for a $20,000 yearly pension. In addition, former Presidents and their spouses can opt to receive lifetime Secret Service protection. Presidents who are removed from office through the impeachment process are no longer eligible for the pension and benefits provided in the Former Presidents Act. Lifetime Secret Service protections are provided under a separate law so this benefit would not be impacted by removal from office.
Per the Former Presidents Act of 1958, a post-presidency office can be set up from the time the president leaves the White House to up to six months after the former president's death, funded by taxpayers. The office of President George HW Bush closed in 2019 following his death. Former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter have all had offices or foundations set up since they left the top job. In 2018, the US General Service Administration spent $US4.75 million on former presidents' expenses, ABC News cited.
|Trump's office has set up shop in Florida, where the former president retired last Wednesday. (Photo: CNN)|
Experts' views on Trump's announcement
Jeffrey Engel, the director of the center for presidential history at Southern Methodist University, said the creation of such an office was not uncommon for a former president, according to Business Insider. "This is one of the more normal things that President Trump has done," Engel told Insider. "Every president is afforded funds by the Congress to establish their post-presidential office for the purpose of handling their own scheduling but, more importantly, handling correspondence handling the informal duties of a former commander in chief."
Todd Belt, the program director of the political-management master's program at George Washington University, said it was atypical for Trump to add "president" to the name of his post-presidency office. "You know, basically they call it the office of their name," Belt told Insider. "For example, the Office of George W. Bush or George HW Bush; President Clinton's is the Clinton Foundation. There's the Office of Barack and Michelle Obama and the Obama Foundation on the same site. So generally, you take the word president out of it, you know?" he added. "I mean, it's not becoming to hold onto the term."
Belt said the office could prove to be problematic, however, if Trump decided to use it to push a political agenda. "I'm not exactly sure if this office can be used for that," he said, "because you're not supposed to be using taxpayer dollars for any overt campaign work. There's a potential conflict of interest."
|While Trump has not announced how he plans to spend his post-White House years and whether he intends to return to politics, he has suggested he does not intend to stay away from the public eye. (Photo: Getty)|
Trump's potential political moves
While Mr. Trump has not announced how he plans to spend his post-White House years and whether he intends to return to politics, he has suggested he does not intend to stay away from the public eye. In his final remarks as president before leaving Washington, Mr. Trump told a crowd of supporters "we will see you soon" and "we will be back in some form."
The former president will also be tried in the Senate next month, as the House impeached him for a second time for incitement of insurrection. The Senate received the single article of impeachment from the House on Monday and the trial is expected to begin the week of February 8, said CBS.
With articles of impeachment now in the Senate, members of the upper house will hold a trial and decide whether to convict the former president. While they can't fire a retired president, senators could bar him from political office. A second vote after conviction would allow them to do so, and deny him other presidential perks. These include funding for future activities, meaning his impeachment vote could ultimately affect his newly founded office.
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