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State Department retreats after promoting Trump’s for-profit business

Updated
Either the State Department didn’t realize it’d be unethical to use official resources to promote one of Donald Trump’s for-profit business, or the State Department did realize it and the promotion happened anyway.
A glowing description of President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago – calling it the “winter White House” – was posted on State Department websites, bringing criticism from ethics watchdogs and Democrats. […]

The text appeared on the website for Share America, a State Department platform intended to “spark discussion and debate on important topics;” the website for the U.S. Embassy in the United Kingdom and the Facebook page for the U.S. Embassy in Albania.
This was, for all intents and purposes, an advertisement endorsed by the U.S. government for one of the president’s business ventures. It touted, for example, the Florida resort’s “style and taste.”

Norm Eisen, the chief ethics lawyer in the Obama White House, highlighted the obvious problem: there are ethics rules in place to prevent the use of government resources to promote private businesses, especially those owned by the president. The State Department promoting Mar-a-Lago is at least as problematic as Kellyanne Conway encouraging Fox News viewers to purchase Ivanka Trump-branded merchandise, if not more so.

The State Department eventually removed the online content, saying in a statement, “The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the President has been hosting world leaders. We regret any misperception and have removed the post.”

Oh, I see. The Trump administration didn’t ignore conflict-of-interest rules; we just “misperceived” the administration’s misstep.

The Sunlight Foundation’s John Wonderlich told NBC News it didn’t matter that the context for the posts was Trump’s meeting with China’s Xi Jinping. “Publishing promotional materials for the President’s private business is clearly inappropriate, whether he is using it for official business or not,” he said. “There is only one White House. If you’re telling the story of Mar-a-Lago, it’s the president’s private business.”

If we go out of our way to be charitable, we might conclude that there’s nothing inherently wrong with the State Department taking note of where a U.S. president conducts foreign policy while meeting with foreign heads of state. But that simply brings us back to a simple truth: Trump, by refusing to divest, has left the entire executive branch in an exceedingly awkward position.

As a New Republic report added, “This kind of thing is becoming routine in Trump’s administration, in part because he’s fostering a culture of corruption in the government, and in part because Republicans in Congress have decided to let him get away with it. They could put a stop to the routine self-enrichment fairly easily, or force him to divest his assets and set up a blind trust, but they have chosen instead to do nothing.”