The president and his family are showing little concern about the appearance they’re profiting off the presidency.
Just four weeks after Donald Trump stood beside a table stacked high with papers trumpeting his plan to separate himself from his business empire, the president and his family and advisers have not made much effort to truly split their business activities and their official duties.
His Palm Beach club Mar-a-Lago doubled its initiation fee, while Sean Spicer, his press secretary, has labeled it “the Winter White House.” The CEO of his hotels business pondered a threefold expansion. Foreign dignitaries are flocking to his Washington hotel. He urged British officials to scuttle a wind farm that would obstruct the view from his golf course. Lawyers for first lady Melania Trump claimed in a New York State libel suit that a Daily Mail article about her cost her the chance “to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multimillion-dollar business relationships.”
Then, on Thursday, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, standing in front of the White House seal for a Fox News interview, told people to buy from first daughter Ivanka Trump’s fashion line after Nordstrom yanked the products from their stores.
Ethics lawyers called it a clear violation of the executive branch’s regulation against officials’ endorsing companies and products.
“You can’t do that,” said Richard Painter, a chief ethics official in the Bush White House. “You just can’t do that.” Even Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican and head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said it was “wrong, wrong, wrong,” “unacceptable,” and “clearly over the line.”