Ethics Group Criticizes Trump Merch (Photos)

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Ethics Group Criticizes Trump Merch (Photos) Promo Image

An ethics group has raised concerns that President Donald Trump is profiting from wearing his "USA" hat while visiting areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has pointed out that the white hat emblazoned with "USA" that Trump wore during his trip to Texas is for sale on his website, giving him free publicity, according to New York magazine.

"Twice in the last four days the White House put out official photo press releases featuring Trump in a hat his campaign is selling for $40," tweeted the watchdog organization on Aug. 29.

CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz said that while he does not believe Trump is breaking the law by wearing the "Official USA 45th Presidential Hat" sold in white and red versions on Trump's campaign website, the move is not ethical, CNN reports.

"Even removed from the hurricane, it's pretty inappropriate," said Libowitz. "There is a difference between what is technically legal and what is ethically right."

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"The White House should be dedicated to the people's business, not Trump's business. It is wholly inappropriate for them to promote Trump products, of any kind, at any time," said Libowitz.

The president has also refused to sell his business holdings when he became president, instead putting his sons in charge of his businesses and placing his own holdings into a trust in his name. When he leaves office, profits from his businesses will go to Trump.

CREW, arguing that the Constitution does not allow elected officials to accept gifts from foreign governments, is suing the president over his business interests.

Former Office of Government Ethics head Walter Shaub also commented on Trump's hat during a recent press conference about Hurricane Harvey, tweeting, "The presser would be more convincing if POTUS weren't wearing merch touted as the hat 'worn by the 45th president-elect, Donald J. Trump, himself.'"

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Bloomberg analyst Anna Massagolia also questioned the ethics of Trump's merchandise, according to Newsweek.

"Any ethics issues raised by using official White House press releases on Hurricane Harvey to show off Trump's re-election campaign merch?" Massagolia tweeted.

"Yes," responded Shaub.

Shaub has previously criticized the president for his unwillingness to remove himself from his conflicts of interest.

"It's hard for the United States to pursue international anti-corruption and ethics initiatives when we're not even keeping our own side of the street clean," said Shaub. "It affects our credibility. I think we are pretty close to a laughing stock at this point."

Others on social media commented on the hat's price.

"Fact that [a] simple baseball cap sells for $40 is either Trump price gouging or a serious indictment of the US manufacturing industry," wrote one user.

Fred Wertheimer, of watchdog organization Democracy 21, said Trump has combined his business interests with his presidency, NPR reports.

"There's no apparent line for the president on how his office can be used for financial benefit, for profit going into his pocket or money going into his campaign," said Wertheimer. "In essence, he's now licensing the presidency."

Sources: New York, CNN, Newsweek, NPR / Featured Image: The White House/Flickr / Embedded Images: White House via CNN, Walter Shaub/Twitter via Newsweek

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