Society

State Department Criticized For Promoting Mar-a-Lago

| by Jordan Smith

The U.S. Department of State is under fire for promoting President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort on a blog post.

Trump has made frequent trips to the Florida resort and hosted several world leaders there, including Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 6, according to The Washington Times.

A page on the website of the U.S. embassy in London described Mar-a-Lago as "the winter White House," even though it is a private club with annual membership fees of $200,000, according to The Guardian.

"By visiting this 'winter White House,' Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago's original owner and designer," the April 4 blog read, according to The Associated Press.

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Mar-a-Lago was left to the U.S. government in a will in 1973. But after successive presidents did not use the resort, it was sold back into private hands in 1981, The Guardian notes. Trump purchased it in 1985.

The blog post linked to a longer description of Mar-a-Lago by Share America, which is 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," The Guardian reports.

This provoked strong criticism from Norman Eisen, who served as special counsel on ethics and government reform during former President Obama's administration. Eisen argued that the post broke federal regulations because the State Department and embassies "are using official channels to promote a private business, which happens to be that of their ultimate superior, the president."

"This is outrageous," he added. "More exploitation of public office for Trump's personal gain."

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Members of Congress also attacked the Trump administration for the blog post.

"As the [White House] plans deep cuts to hunger programs and foreign aid, so nice to see taxpayer money being used responsibly...to promote Mar-a-Lago," Democratic Rep. Mark Takano of California tweeted, according to the New York Daily News.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon tweeted a link to the description of the resort, adding: "Yes. I am curious [U.S. State Department]. Why are taxpayer $$ promoting the President's private country club." 

This is not the first time the Trump administration has been accused of mixing government business and private interests.

In March, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway was criticized for promoting products belonging to Ivanka Trump. During a television interview, Conway told viewers to "Go by Ivanka's stuff."

The State Department has not responded to requests for comment on the issue.

Sources: The Washington TimesNew York Daily News, The Guardian, The Associated Press via CNBC / Photo credit: The White House/Wikimedia Commons

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