Forbes: Trump’s Leaner White House 2020 Payroll Saved Taxpayers $23.5 Million Since 2017 57_white_house_payroll

June 30, 2020 10:03 AM





By Adam Andrzejewski

During President Trump’s first four-years, he spent $23.5 million less on White House payroll costs than Obama, adjusted for inflation.

Trump’s White House payroll has 413 employees – that's 55 fewer staffers than Barack Obama (FY2012) at the same point in their presidencies.

There was 36-percent turnover in White House staff, year over year. This was the same percentage as the previous year. 

Comparing First Lady staff headcount: Melania Trump (11 staffers) versus Michelle Obama (24 staffers).

Today, the Trump administration released its annual report to Congress on the White House Office Personnel. The payroll data includes employee name, status, salary, and position title for all 413 White House employees as of June 30, 2020. Search the recent Trump administration (2017, 2018, and 2019) payroll data posted at 

Over the past 12 months, Trump further reduced headcount at the already lean White House by five employees. Last year, the president employed 418 staffers which was 36 fewer than Obama at the same point in their presidencies.

This year, Trump further honed the White House payroll and saved taxpayers $2.35 million year over year: $42.1 million (FY2019) to $39.7 million (FY2020), adjusted for inflation. In FY2015, Barack Obama’s payroll was much larger: $40.9 million ($45 million, adjusted for inflation) with 476 staffers.


Trump’s White House payroll has been a leading indicator of his commitment to “do more, with less.” 

In the first few weeks of his presidency, Trump issued an order mandating an executive agency hiring freeze. Trump asked his agency heads to “seek efficient use of existing personnel and funds to improve public services…”

Leading by example, Trump saved taxpayers $23.5 million during the first four years of his administration. In 2017, our auditors at forecasted a $22 million four-year savings. 

Our initial forecast underestimated the amount the president would save taxpayers by $1.5 million. 

The payroll discounts come from Trump’s refusal to take a salary, as well as big reductions in other areas including the absence of czars, expensive “fellows,” and spending on First Lady of The United States (FLOTUS) staff.

Here are some key findings:

  • There are 55 fewer employees on the White House staff under Trump than under Obama at this point in their respective presidencies. (In 2012, Obama had 468 employees for $37.1 million – adjusted for inflation – the payroll cost $43 million.)
  • $5.3 million in annual payroll savings compared to the Obama 2015 payroll, inflation adjusted. In 2020, the Trump payroll amounts to $39.7 million for 413 employees. In 2015, the Obama payroll amounted to $45 million for 476 employees, adjusted for inflation.
  • Elevan staffers are dedicated to the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama paid her 24 staffers $1.6 million collectively.
  • Overall, 150 employees from Trump’s 2019 payroll of 418 employees no longer work at the White House. The employee turnover rate was 36-percent year-over-year. This was the same turnover percentage as 2018-2019. 
  • The most highly compensated White House employees under Trump are 20 assistants to the president who each earn $183,000 – with no pay increase from last year. 
  • The top earning staffer was Peter J. Brown, special representative for disaster recovery, who earned $190,289 . Kelly Ann Conway and all other assistants to the president make $183,000.
  • This year’s list of key advisors still includes names such as Lawrence Kudlow (Economic Advisor), Steve Miller (Policy Advisor), Kellyanne Conway (Senior Counselor), and Hope Hicks (Counselor) and Peter Navarro (Assistant For Trade And Manufacturing).


Our review of this year’s White House payroll shows eleven employees on First Lady Melania Trump’s staff. Former First Lady Michelle Obama was heavily criticized for her 24-member staff in 2009 including assistants, advisors, schedulers, directors, deputies, associates, social and press secretaries, and other "helpers." 

We reached out to the White House and confirmed the First Lady staff headcount. 

Starting in 2009, President Obama came under fire for hiring special initiative czars. Over Trump's first four years in office, we found no evidence of czars on the White House payroll.

While on the campaign trail, President Trump vowed to forego his paycheck. However, Article II of the U.S. Constitution mandates a presidential salary.

During his time in office, the president donated his quarterly portions of his $400,000 salary to the National Park Service, Small Business Administration, Department of Interior, Department of Transportation, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and other agencies. 

Recently, the president donated $100,000 of his salary to Health and Human Services (HHS) to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.


The rest of the Trump family is also leading by example by foregoing their salaries. First Daughter and Presidential Advisor Ivanka Trump and Son-in-Law Senior Advisor Jared Kushner both refused a salary.

Although the White House personnel budget is an infinitesimal part of the $4.83 trillion federal budget FY2021, it is an important forecasting indicator showing Trump’s commitment to cut the size, scope, and power of the federal government and reign in waste.

Note: we requested comment from the White House and will update the piece if there is a response. All inflation adjusted numbers cited use the US Inflation Calculator and the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

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