Donald Trump put his brand on a variety of White House merchandise, potentially violating ethics laws. According to the Huffington Post, people can purchase items like clothing, mugs, and soap bearing the image of the White House and branded with the Trump name at the Trump Store or the Trump International Hotel.
Dubbed the “Cherry Blossom Collection,” the items launched earlier this week and were spotted by 1100 Pennsylvania. The collection says it was inspired by Trump’s D.C. hotel and depict the city’s famous cherry blossoms. But many of the items show an illustration of the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. Other items feature the words “Trump Washington D.C.” The collection raises additional concerns that the president is using his office for monetary gain.
While using this type of iconography isn’t a problem in itself, it’s Trump’s attempts to profit from his position that poses the potential issue.
Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics in both Obama and Trump’s White House, called the move a conflict of financial interest.
“Our corrupt President’s hotel, in which he retains a conflicting financial interest, is selling products with the image of the White House on it. I’d say he’s monetizing the presidency again, but it’s a continuous effort so ‘again’ wouldn’t make sense,” he wrote on Twitter.
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. https://t.co/axs6Y34EZC— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) March 23, 2019
This isn’t the first time that Trump has attempted to tie his administration to his business. He also attempted to put the presidential seal on golf tee markers in March of last year. ProPublica pointed out that the move could potentially be illegal.
“Under federal law, the seal’s use is permitted only for official government business. Misuse can be a crime. Past administrations have policed usage vigilantly,” they wrote.
Indeed, in 2005, Bush ordered The Onion to remove the symbol from its website, saying the seal “is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement.”
The Trump hotel in D.C. is also the center of a controversy. The landmark building is owned by taxpayers and leased to the Trump organization. According to AP News, a lawsuit alleges that Trump is using the hotel for profit by allowing people with influence to stay and throw parties there, potentially financially influencing the office of the president. The lawsuit alleges that Trump has violated the emoluments clause. That lawsuit is currently moving through the courts.