President Donald Trump is now accused of violating campaign laws for the signed letter he now includes in U.S. government-funded food aid boxes. According to a report by ProPublica, boxes of food issued to Americans in need by the U.S. Department of Agriculture now include a letter from Trump on White House letterhead. Critics say that the president is intentionally using government resources towards his campaign for the 2020 presidential election.
The food boxes come from an existing Department of Agriculture program called the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. It provides fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat to Americans who qualify and has been heavily utilized amid the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic recession. The Trump administration is now putting a form letter from the president in the boxes, printed in both English and Spanish, indicating that Trump himself is responsible for disbursing the food. Democrats say that this is an attempt to curry favor in the remaining weeks before the election.
Some critics have even gone so far as to say that Trump's new USDA letters violate the Hatch Act — a federal law preventing incumbents from using their resources to sway elections. Trump and his administration have already been accused of violating this act in multiple ways, including a similar stunt where Trump put his name on the stimulus check issued in April. Trump later sent a form letter about that as well.
Last month, 49 House Democrats signed a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, warning that they saw these letters as a violation. The letter requested an explanation from Perdue.
"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," it read. "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."
So far, the White House, the USDA and Trump have not commented publicly on those letters. However, the Trump administration has been flippant in regards to accusations of violating the Hatch Act. Last week, White House chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Politico: "Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares." He also explained a loophole by which he believes the administration could escape persecution for violating the Hatch Act.