State Department promotion of Trump's Mar-a-Lago draws fire

The article included photos of the lavish property and a January tweet from Trump referring to the estate as the winter White House.

In an April 4 blog post that has been republished by several USA embassies overseas, Mar-a-Lago is described as "Trump's Florida estate", where he has hosted foreign leaders.

The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. "We regret any misperception and have removed the post".

Other topics on the Share America page include a new US coin honoring Frederick Douglass, debate over the Confederate flag and news about first lady Melania Trump's participation in the State Department's International Women of Courage award ceremony.

Workers lay out the red carpet at Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., on December 30, 2016. They say foreign leaders or diplomats could try to curry favor with the Trump administration by visiting or buying a membership at Mar-a-Lago.

The State Department is promoting President Donald Trump's private Florida estate as the "winter White House", raising ethical questions about how Trump could financially benefit from the presidency.

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In a statement sent to ThinkProgress, Norm Eisen, former Obama administration ethics czar, said the State Department's conduct appears to be a violation of a federal statute prohibiting federal employees from using public offices for private gaine.

Ethics watchdogs and Democratic groups have been closely eyeing Trump's ability to benefit his bottom line through the presidency and this blog post has some questioning whether the government is now helping publicize the property. He said the posting was a "clearly inappropriate" use of government resources.

It later lauds the resort itself, saying that builder Marjorie Merriweather Post "spared no expense" for it.

Following Trump's election to the White House, Mar-a-Lago doubled its membership fee. The blog was originally published on Share America, the Department of State's "platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education and the role of civil society". Trump bought it in 1985. Trump traveled to Mar-a-Lago seven out of the first 12 full weekends after his inauguration, and mingled with members on numerous occasions.

A page on the website of the United States embassy in London described Mar-a-Lago as "the winter White House", even though it is a private club and its annual membership fees are $200,000.

  • Toni Ryan