The presidential administration of Donald Trump is a monument to flaunting both the law and precedent. The current commander-in-chief has continuously proven that his commitment is to his own personal whims as much as it is to anything else.
In that light, it should come as no surprise that during a visit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week, a Twitter post flaunting the fact that the two of them spent some time out on a Trump-branded golf course went up on the president’s personal Twitter account.
The Wednesday post, which includes a photo of Abe and Trump, who is wearing one of the red “USA” hats that he sells, reads as follows:
@AbeShinzo of Japan and myself this morning building an even deeper and better relationship while playing a quick round of golf at Trump International Golf Club.’
Ethics lawyer Norm Eisen, who worked in the Obama administration, pointed out on Twitter that this tweet is an apparent violation of rules against government employees using their official positions to promote private enterprise. The private enterprise being promoted here is the president’s golf course, which he maintains a financial connection to.
‘ETHICS ALERT: gov employees who worked on this violated 5 CFR 2635.702, 704 & 705, forbidding use of gov. position, property & time to promote Trump’s golf course. Whoever took this pic, & tagged official accounts, including WH & State Dept, broke law. Dont end up like Cohen!’
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, of course, is currently under criminal investigation for activity carried out on behalf of Donald Trump.
The rule that Eisen cites reads as follows:
‘An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations.’
The rule does not, according to the information provided by Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, always apply to presidents and vice presidents. However, as Eisen mentions, it’s not as though Donald Trump personally took the photo, so whatever government employee or employees did take the photo and/or put up the post almost certainly did break the rules.
In the age of Trump, of course, this issue is just one of many.