President Trump, who is always in a self-promotion mode, wants Americans who are suffering enough to seek assistance to think that he is largely responsible for their most recent meal.
Letters signed by Trump have been included in government-funded food relief packages shipped to needy families by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to CBS News, the boastful letter uses the White House letterhead and has prompted 49 Democratic members of Congress to send a letter of their own to the USDA questioning the legality of Trump’s brash move, citing the Hatch Act.
“Using a federal relief program to distribute a self-promoting letter from the President to American families just three months before the presidential election is inappropriate and a violation of federal law,” the letter said. “A public health crisis is not an opportunity for the administration to promote its own political interests. Likewise, a federal food assistance program should not be used as a tool for the President to exploit taxpayer dollars for his re-election campaign.”
The nonprofit Feeding America told CBS News that several food banks have asked if the letter signed by the president is legal because they are not permitted to make political endorsements.
According to ProPublica, who spoke with the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Trump’s letter may not be illegal because it does not explicitly refer to the coming election. “It doesn’t make it inherently political just because he is a candidate,” spokesperson Jordan Libowitz said. “It’s just one of the benefits of being an incumbent.”
The president pulled the same stunt by sending a signed letter along with the stimulus check that went out to approximately 160 million taxpayers earlier this year. But with Trump’s business history of plastering his name on just about everything he’s had a financial interest in this classless move likely surprises very few.
And let’s not forget the reason these families are in need of food in the first place is because of the economic fallout from the president’s failed coronavirus response. According to Census data, in late July, 12.1 percent of adults lived in a household that at some time in the last week did not have enough food. That number was 9.8 percent in May. And one in five American households with kids could not afford enough food, even as the number of food stamp recipients has increased significantly.