- Former President Donald Trump says he’s establishing an Office of the Former President in Florida.
- Experts say the move isn’t unusual for ex-presidents but could become problematic.
- One expert said presidents “can easily live in the gray areas if they choose.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Former President Donald Trump on Monday announced the creation of the Office of the Former President in Florida, his first public move since leaving the White House last week. The name was met with some incredulity, but the concept is far from new, according to experts.
“Today, the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, formally opened the Office of the Former President,” according to a statement.
“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. President Trump will always and forever be a champion for the American people.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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 potential conflict of interest.”
There could be some ‘gray areas’ in what is considered an ethical use of the office
“As we saw with the Trump presidency, a president can easily live in the gray areas if they choose,” Engel said. “I do not have a sense that President Trump was ever particularly concerned with the appearance of ethics and the appearance of impropriety.
“So there’s all kinds of room for a person to use this office for their own political agenda and not for the public-service mission that it was designed for.”
It is not immediately clear what messages the former president will choose to relay from the federal office, nor what his intentions for a post-presidency life will be. Trump was said to have been gearing up for a 2024 run, rebooting his TV career, or raising money to fund a presidential library.
Trump was said to have floated the idea of breaking off from Republicans and creating a new political party — called the Patriot Party — to keep GOP lawmakers in line ahead of his impending impeachment trial. But his campaign disavowed any association with a party of that name after a Georgia man filed paperwork to the Federal Election Commission to form it this week.
“I think Donald Trump is going to be an aberration in the long run,” Belt said. “I don’t see many people who will like to govern like him, and I don’t see any people who can govern like him — that sheer force of personality that got so many people to rally behind him.”
Belt continued, “It certainly wasn’t any understanding of the common workings of government.”