Trump plasters presidential seal across golf club during Saudi-backed LIV tournament despite complaints

Earlier this month, watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to criminally investigate Mr Trump’s Bedminster golf club over its use of the seal

Rachel Sharp
Friday 29 July 2022 14:43 BST
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9/11 families launch ad criticising Trump for hosting Saudi golf tournament
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Donald Trump has plastered the presidential seal across his New Jersey golf club as he controversially plays host to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament – despite watchdog complaints about the one-time president exploiting the image for commercial purposes.

The presidential seal was seen on display across multiple items at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster on Thursday, including golf carts, towels and on the wall of a viewing room on the 18th green.

Mr Trump has been warned in the past about using the presidential seal for commercial purposes, something that is against federal law.

Earlier this month, watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to criminally investigate his Bedminster club over its use of the seal.

“Unlawful use of the presidential seal for commercial purposes is no trivial matter, especially when it involves a former president who is actively challenging the legitimacy of the current president,” the watchdog said in its letter to the DOJ.

The group filed a similar complaint accusing the Bedminster club of profiting from using images of the seal last year.

According to US federal law, it is illegal to use the presidential and vice-presidential seals in a way that could convey the impression of government approval or sponsorship of private-sector businesses.

Violation of the law is punishable by up to six months in federal prison.

To date, no one has ever been charged with the crime.

A viewing room in a tent at the 18th green with the US Presidential Seal at the LIV Golf Bedminster
A viewing room in a tent at the 18th green with the US Presidential Seal at the LIV Golf Bedminster (EPA)

But, both during Mr Trump’s time in the White House and since he lost the 2020 election, the seal appears to have been popping up around his private golf courses.

Back in April, a photo posted on social media showed the seal in the grass close to the 18th hole at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.

In total, at least four of his clubs in the Bronx, New Jersey, Jupiter, Florida and West Palm Beach, Florida have featured the seal – a possible violation of federal law.

But the use of the presidential seal is far from the only controversy swirling around Mr Trump’s decision to play host to the LIV Golf tournament.

The former president – who is reportedly under criminal investigation by the DOJ for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election – has come under fire from 9/11 survivors and victims’ families for supporting the Saudi-sponsored event.

This week, the 9/11 Justice group posted advertisements condemning Mr Trump for taking hundreds of millions of dollars from an “evil regime” by hosting the event “less than 50 miles from Ground Zero”.

On Thursday – as he took part in the pro-amateur event ahead of the tournament start on Friday – Mr Trump dismissed the criticism, claiming that ”nobody’s got to the bottom of 9/11”.

He went on to describe the terrorists as “maniacs” and called the murders of almost 3,000 people a “horrible thing to our city, to our country, to the world” – before insisting there was “a lot of really great people” at his event.

“But I can tell you that there are a lot of really great people that are out here today, and we’re gonna have a lot of fun, and we’re going to celebrate. Money’s going to charity—a lot of money’s going to charity,” he said.

It’s a marked change from his comments back in 2016 where he pinned the blame firmly on Saudi Arabia.

“Who blew up the World Trade Center?” he said on Fox & Friends.

“It wasn’t the Iraqis — it was Saudi. Take a look at Saudi Arabia. Open the documents.”

The Saudi Arabian government has always denied any involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks, where terrorists hijacked four commercial planes and crashed two into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City, one into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and one into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania – the latter after brave passengers tried to take back the plane as it headed towards Washington DC.

Donald Trump plays during the pro-am round of the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster on Thursday
Donald Trump plays during the pro-am round of the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster on Thursday (AP)

The 9/11 commission report, released in 2004, found potential ties between Saudi officials and the terrorist attacks.

However, it was unable to find evidence directly linking the Saudi government to the hijackers or to the funding of the attacks or Al-Qaeda.

Fifteen of the 9/11 attackers were Saudi citizens and al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was also born in the country.

The 9/11 families have long demanded the US government releases all classified evidence from its investigation into potential Saudi links.

In September, President Joe Biden finally declassified a 16-page FBI report.

The findings went beyond what was found in the commission report – it linked the hijackers to two Saudi nationals living in the US.

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