White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany seemed to inadvertently disclose the president’s personal banking information when announcing he was donating his salary to fight COVID-19.
Trump, upon taking office, pledged to donate his quarterly $100,000 salary, which he has given to a range of government agencies, including to the departments of Transportation and Veteran Affairs, as well as to the Department of Homeland Security.
McEnany, at the briefing, held up a paycheck and said, “Here is the check, amounted to $100,000, that will go directly from President Trump and his paycheck that he does not take, but rather donates it to various noble initiatives,” adding that this time it would go to supporting the administration’s fight against COVID-19 and in honor of those whom the disease has killed.
White House spokesperson Judd Deere said in a statement that on this occasion, the president’s donation would help in the development of new therapeutics to treat COVID-19 infections.
Multiple media outlets speculated whether, in making the announcement, McEnany held up a genuine check that featured the president’s banking information, including Trump’s private bank account and routing numbers.
According to The Independent, if the Capital One check McEnany held up was indeed authentic, the information on it could be exploited by hackers.
Eva Velasquez, head of the Identity Theft Resource Center, told The New York Times that Trump’s bank account is likely to have additional security features making it a harder target for a malicious cyberattack.
The New York Times speculated whether the check was a mock-up for publicity purposes and cited an administration official as saying that fake checks haven’t been used in past briefings.
In a May 22 statement, Deere expressed disappointment that the focus of media coverage appeared to be skewed on whether the check was a prop and not on the donation itself.
“President Trump has donated his entire salary since he took office—a promise he made and has kept—and today his salary went to help advance new therapies to treat this virus, but leave it to the media to find a shameful reason not to simply report the facts, focusing instead on whether the check is real or not,” Deere said, according to CNBC.
Mike Chapple, academic director of Notre Dame’s Master of Science in Business Analytics program, told The New York Times that the controversy surrounding McEnany’s displaying of the check shows why oversized mock-ups of checks are often used for publicity purposes.
“They’re not only a nice prop onstage, but they also omit the sensitive account information that normally appears at the bottom,” Chapple told the paper.
“The rest of us should play it safe and keep our account numbers to ourselves,” he said.