President Donald Trump has emblazoned the “Trump” brand name on images of the White House to sell in his Trump Store and at the Trump International Hotel in the capital. The products give the bizarre impression that the White House is a Trump hotel.
Walter Shaub, who was director of the Office of Government Ethics in both the Obama and Trump administrations, sharply criticized the products as the latest move to “monetize the presidency” for private gain.
The products among the new “Cherry Blossom Collection” now online bearing the White House image include soap, mugs, a T-shirt and a long-sleeved shirt. A line on the mug, which also includes a drawing of the Trump Hotel, reads simply: “Trump Washington D.C. Building.” A line beneath the White House on the T-shirt reads: “Trump Washington D.C.”
Vanity Fair quipped that the Trump Hotel is hawking “florals and potential conflicts-of-interest for spring.”
The hotel, located in a landmark building owned by taxpayers and leased by the Trump Organization, is at the center of a lawsuit arguing that the business violates the Constitutional prohibition against a federal official accepting payments or gifts from states or foreign governments — like those that book rooms and events there.
Shaub and other ethics experts say the hotel is an easy conduit for cash from anyone hoping to curry favor with the president. Now Trump appears to be underscoring the direct link between the hotel and “his” White House.
The Trump Organization last year used golf tee markers emblazoned with the presidential seal, but the seal is legally allowed only for official government business so they were removed.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the latest selling of the White House breached regulations, but Jessica Tillipman, a government ethics expert at George Washington University Law School, told the UK Independent that Trump profiting from his position was “bizarre and wrong.”
Trump, unlike other presidents, has neither divested from his businesses nor put his assets in a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest.