Letter from Trump taking credit for aid now mandated in government food boxes: report
The Department of Agriculture is mandating that letters from President Trump be included in millions of food assistance boxes, according to Politico.
The $4 billion Families to Farmers Food Box Program has distributed 100 million boxes already, the USDA announced Wednesday. The program delivers surplus goods that would normally go to restaurants to families experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Organizations tasked with distributing the food have complained that the messaging and campaign-like letters included in the boxes appear to have the goal of boosting the president’s image ahead of the election.
“In my 30 years of doing this work, I’ve never seen something this egregious,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, told Politico. “These are federally purchased boxes.”
The fact that the letters were included in some of the boxes was first reported by Fox News in July. On Wednesday the White House posted a campaign-style video on Twitter touting the food boxes with remarks Trump made in North Carolina in August before a crowd of a few hundred people.
The letter, which comes in English and Spanish, says: “As President, safeguarding the health and well-being of our citizens is one of my highest priorities. As part of our response to coronavirus, I prioritized sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America.”
Some lawmakers have argued that the letters could potentially violate the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal officials besides the president and vice president from engaging in politics in their official capacity.
“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,” a group of 49 House Democrats, led by Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, wrote in an Aug. 14 letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
“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.”
In a statement to The Hill, the Agriculture Department said “politics has played zero role in the Farmers to Families food box program — it is purely about helping farmers and distributors get food to Americans in need during this unprecedented time.”
The agency noted the letters have been included for months but did not answer questions about the mandate Politico reported. The Agriculture Department’s response also included positive statements about the program from Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser.