On the day of his inauguration, Donald Trump filed papers with the Federal Election Commission signifying that he would run for re-election in 2020. On Saturday, February 18th — less than a month after being inaugurated — Trump held what can only be described as his first re-election campaign rally.
When asked by a reporter aboard Air Force One if it was too early to start campaigning again, Trump responded:
Life is a campaign. Making our country great again is a campaign. For me, it’s a campaign; to make America great again is absolutely a campaign.
According to Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, funds from Trump’s 2016 campaign covered the cost of the rally itself, but she did not have information on who covered the cost of Air Force One. While the president is allowed to use Air Force One to travel to campaign events, his or her party must reimburse the federal government for part of the cost of the trip.
Using Air Force One as a “prop” during a speech is also an ethical gray area. While Trump did not technically use Air Force One as a literal backdrop for his speech as he often did with “Trump Force One” while campaigning, Air Force One did remain looming off to the side. Additionally, he and First Lady Melania Trump used the president’s 747 to make an extremely dramatic entrance.
When Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton used Air Force One to attend campaign-related events in 2016, Trump responded angrily on Twitter.