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August 31, 2017

President Trump To Pledge $1 Million Of His $3.5 Billion Fortune For Hurricane Harvey Relief

In response to a question on whether President Donald Trump and his family are personally giving to Hurricane Harvey relief, at a White House briefing today, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that President Trump “will pledge probably a million dollars of his own personal money to help the people of both Texas and Louisiana.” And she said he’d love suggestions from the press pool as to what charities to give to.

I’ll throw out a couple of suggestions: The American National Red Cross, chartered by Congress in 1905 to respond to domestic and international disasters. And the Greater Houston Community Foundation Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, established by Houston’s mayor Sylvester Turner.

Does the pledge mean he has to go through with the donation? That’s a matter of state law, but since he hasn’t named a recipient charity yet, and no charity has relied on his promise, technically he’s not on the hook. But count on the press to hold him to it. It was nearly four months after promising a $1 million personal donation to veterans’ causes at a fundraiser last January that he moved to fulfill that pledge with a gift to the Marine-Corps Law Enforcement Foundation after digging by the Washington Post.

It’s not unusual for big donors to pause before making big gifts, but with disaster relief there are immediate needs, and the players are well-known. Trump’s been called out for making mistakes in his charitable giving. His tiny namesake Trump Foundation ($1.1 million assets in 2015) admitted to violating self-dealing rules. And the bulk of the personal donations he and his companies made over the years were for conservation easements on his golf course properties--charitable deductions whose value the Internal Revenue Service scrutinizes (we don't know whether his deductions are being questioned).

There’s no question much help is needed in response to Harvey. At the briefing, homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said that there are 100,000 affected homes, and everyone is still in response mode, with life-saving and life-sustaining measures at the forefront of the work being done. Governor Greg Abbott has suggested the recovery costs could exceed $100 billion (the federal Superstorm Sandy recovery package was $60 billion).

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are returning to Texas on Saturday. Maybe he’ll hand over a check then.

Here are the relevant excerpts from the briefing about the pledge.

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