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Trump profiting from presidency by selling White House-branded merchandise via his ‘Trump Store’

Sale of items branded 'bizarre and wrong' by government ethics expert

Tom Embury-Dennis
Friday 22 March 2019 18:36 GMT
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Trump Store is selling merchandise featuring likeness of White House
Trump Store is selling merchandise featuring likeness of White House (Trump Store)

Donald Trump’s website has launched a range of White House-branded merchandise, apparently for personal profit, in a potential violation of government ethics rules.

The items, which include a $45 (£34) long-sleeve t-shirt and a $16 (£12) giant mug, feature the outline of a building which mirrors the iconic Washington residence of sitting US presidents.

The new line - "Cherry Blossom Collection" - which debuted on Wednesday and was first reported by website 1100 Pennsylvania, features around 11 new items, of which four appear to depict the White House and other DC landmarks.

The Trump Store, the official retail website of the Trump Organization, says the collection is “inspired" by the Trump International Hotel in the US capital.

“Featuring unique imagery of the Trump Hotel Washington, D.C. surrounded by Cherry Blossoms,” the blurb for a $30 (£23) t-shirt reads. It fails to mention the White House imagery, which is placed in the foreground.

Similarly, the long-sleeved t-shirt’s description fails to include the White House, as does the mug and a $22 (£17) soap set – the bar of which is wrapped in packaging featuring only the White House under the title, “Trump hotels”.

Although the president is excluded from some ethics rules, "one would hope just like prior administrations you would have a president in office who doesn’t want to give people the appearance he’s profiting off his position", Jessica Tillipman, a government ethics expert at George Washington University Law School, told The Independent.

Branding the apparent personal profiteering from his office as "bizarre and wrong", Ms Tillipman said Mr Trump's ethics conduct was unlike previous administrations.

"Never did we see President Obama, or President Bush, or President Clinton, or the other President Bush, or Reagan, creating merchandise to benefit themselves personally that profits off his name and position as the president of the United States,” she added.

A year ago the Trump Organization was caught putting the presidential seal on tee markers for golf courses owned by the president.

Trump Store t-shirt features image of White House alongside other public buildings (Trump Store)

The law says the seal can only be used for official government business, and that misuse can be considered a crime.

It comes after it emerged nearly $1.3m (£990,000) of donations to Mr Trump’s re-election campaign were subsequently transferred to businesses owned by the president.

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The money has been spent on hotel rooms, rent, food, legal consulting and other services provided by Mr Trump’s firms, according to campaign filings analysed by Forbes.

Tens of thousands of people have made payments to his 2020 campaign, which he launched on the day of his inauguration three years ago.

The president has not contributed any of his own money, despite boasting on the day he launched his first campaign in 2015: “I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”

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