Donald Trump’s company has done a remarkably good job profiting off of his job as president of these United States. First, there were the “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hats he wore to tour the hurricane damage in Houston. Then, there was Trump International Hotel Washington D.C. where heads of government have flocked to pay homage to the new president. The last profit scheme maybe be seriously illegal, though.
The man who is in the Oval Office three-fourths of his time loves to golf. He loves it so much, he built golf courses across the country and abroad. The Trump Organization owns four courses in the U.S. and abroad. The company is also building a fifth one in Bali, Indonesia.
It came as no surprise that the man, who likes to see everything from skyscrapers to steaks emblazoned with his name in gold, had another questionable job in mind. He ordered a set of golf course tee markers imprinted with replicas of the Presidential Seal.
The president blasted through the Constitution’s emoluments clause long ago, while the Republican turned their heads. Yet, can they ignore this latest effort?
It is a federal crime to use the seal for anything other than official government business. Trump’s blatant misuse could be criminal.
Owner of Eagle Signs, Joseph Bates, confirmed the order, according to the ProPublica/WNYC podcast Trump, Inc.:
‘We made the design, and the client confirmed the design.’
Then-associate White House counsel in the George W. Bush administration wrote a letter to The Onion, a satirical news website, commanding the site to remove a replica of the seal. According to that 2005 letter, Trump, Inc. reported:
‘(The seal) is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement.’
The company tasked with manufacturing the Eagle Sign and Design is a metalworking and sign company. It said the White House had ordered, according to ProPublica:
‘Dozens of round, 12-inch replicas of the presidential seal to be placed next to the tee boxes at Trump golf course holes. Two tee markers are placed on the ground at the start of a hole on golf courses to indicate where golfers should stand to take their first swing.’
ProPublica and WNYC verified that the tee markers were indeed ordered by “Trump International.” The manufacturer even had a Facebook page for Eagle Sign and Design with a photo of the markers, which has since been removed. It was placed in a photo album under the caption “Trump International Golf Course.”
Washington University law professor specializing in government and legal ethics, Kathleen Clark said:
‘(The) law is an expression of the idea that the government and government authority should not be used for private purpose. It would be a misuse of government authority.’
‘Whoever knowingly displays any printed or other likeness of the great seal of the United States, or of the seals of the President or the Vice President of the United States, or the seal of the United States Senate, or the seal of the United States House of Representatives, or the seal of the United States Congress, or any facsimile thereof, in, or in connection with, any advertisement, poster, circular, book, pamphlet, or other publication, public meeting, play, motion picture, telecast, or other production, or on any building, monument, or stationery, for the purpose of conveying, or in a manner reasonably calculated to convey, a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States or by any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.’
Vice chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government accountability group, Richard Painter, noted:
‘If we had heard of a private company using it for commercial purposes, we would have sent them a nasty letter.’
Featured Image via Getty Images/Jeff. J. Mitchell.