On Thursday, Donald Trump tweeted a video recorded aboard Air Force One, in which he criticized the decision of New York mayor Bill de Blasio to run for the presidency. Calling him “the worst mayor in the history of New York City,” Trump posted the campaign-related video on his way to New York to attend a fundraising event.
But experts say that Trump’s video wasn’t just unethical, but that the president could have violated two laws by recording a political video while aboard on Air Force One, according to Law and Crime. In the video, one can see the presidential seal being prominently displayed just above the window to the left of Trump, which led to a certain sense of gravity with the president mocking his potential future opponent.
CREW’s chief ethics counsel, Virginia Canter, told The Washington Post that it was deeply disturbing to see Trump employ the presidential seal in a manner which, she argues, could be illegal under American law.
“It is illegal to employ the presidential seal 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,” she told the paper.
According to Canter, the purpose of the law is to forbid individuals from using the presidential seal to amplify personal interests, which is what Trump seems to have done with the video. She said that the presence of the seal in the video gives the impression that the communication is from the administration of the United States, when, in fact, it is a campaign video for Trump.
"It’s entirely inappropriate": Trump shot a political video on Air Force One https://t.co/t8FpTvHHaG— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 18, 2019
Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, said it was problematic for a president to use Air Force One for campaign purposes, which is what Trump seems to have done with the video.
“It’s entirely inappropriate, and it is against historical norms for a president to be campaigning from Air Force One,” he said.
Ryan suggested that although President Trump was exempt from violating the Hatch Act, as he was protected by executive privileges, he was in violation of campaign finance laws. However, Ryan said that those laws are hardly ever enforced, even as Trump administration officials seem to have made it a habit to violate the Hatch Act without repercussions.
According to campaign finance laws, Trump’s campaign must pay the American people back for the flight, although it appears highly unlikely that it would happen.