Trump's 'Office of the Former President' is actually not uncommon — but it could get tricky if he uses it to push his political agenda

  • Former President Donald Trump announced he was establishing the "Office of the Former President" from his base in Florida.
  • Experts said the move is not uncommon for ex-presidents, but it could become problematic should Trump use the taxpayer-funded office to push a political agenda.
  • "As we saw with the Trump presidency, a president can easily live in the gray areas if they choose," one expert said.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Former President Donald Trump announced Monday 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," the statement read. "President Trump will always and forever be a champion for the American people."

Read more: Trump opened an 'Office of the Former President' to issue statements from Palm Beach as he remains barred from most social media

The announcement comes after the former president has been banned from a number of social media platforms — including his favored platform Twitter — in the wake of the 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 a former president to formally continue their advocacy and relay messages to the American public — one of the many perks enjoyed by former presidents once they leave office. 

Jeffrey Engel, director of the center for presidential history at Southern Methodist University, said the creation of the Office of the Former President is not uncommon for a former president.

"This is one of the more normal things that president Trump has done," Engel told Business 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, 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.

"The thing that usually happens is that [former presidents] mutually don't call it, 'the office of the former president,' you know, basically they call it the office of their name," Belt told Business Insider. "For example, the Office of George W. Bush or George H.W. 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 they leave the White House to up to six months after the former president's death, funded by taxpayers. The office of the late President George H.W. Bush closed in 2019 following his death.

However, Belt said the office could prove to be problematic if Trump decides to use it to push a political agenda.

"We don't know is whether or not the president of plans to use it to advance a political agenda or party or at least some political action committee," Belt told Business Insider. "I'm not exactly sure if this office can be used for that, 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, Engel said.

"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," he continued.

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 reportedly floated the idea of breaking off from Republicans and creating a third political party — the Patriot Party — to keep GOP lawmakers in line ahead of his impending impeachment trial. But his campaign disavowed any association with the party after a Georgia man filed paperwork to the FEC to form it earlier 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."

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