Former President Donald Trump’s use of the presidential seal at his New Jersey golf resort continued during the Saudi-backed LIV tournament despite federal law and multiple complaints.
Citizens for Reform and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed multiple complaints against Trump businesses –including National Golf Club Bedminster, site of the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf series that has drawn protest from 9/11 families and defiant support from Trump — for improper use of the presidential seal. The complaints cited federal law:
Under 18 U.S.C. § 713(a), it is a crime to “knowingly display any printed or other likeness of the . . . seal of the President . . . of the United States . . . in, or in connection with . . . any building, monument, or stationery . . . for the purpose of conveying, or in a manner reasonably calculated to convey, a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States.”3 Violators face up to six months’ imprisonment and a monetary fine.4 The Attorney General may bring an action to enjoin violations of the statute “[u]pon complaint by any authorized representative of any department or agency of the United States.”5
Here, there is reason to believe that Trump Bedminster is violating § 713(a) by knowingly displaying a likeness of the presidential seal for commercial purposes. As an initial matter, no question has been raised as to the authenticity of the July 5 photograph, which appears to depict Trump Bedminster and was posted to Instagram with the golf club tagged as the location. The Trump Organization has not responded to Forbes’ request for comment on the photograph,6 nor has it publicly denied its authenticity. If Trump Bedminster is in fact displaying the presidential seal as depicted in the photograph, the display would be “in connection with” a “building” (i.e., the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster) within the meaning of § 713(a).
But The Washington Post notes that the seal was very much in evidence at the tournament, despite the complaints and federal law:
Former president Donald Trump was spotted using the presidential seal on multiple items during the LIV Golf tournament at his Bedminster, N.J., golf course.
The seal was plastered on towels, golf carts and other items as the former president participated in the pro-am event of the Saudi-sponsored tournament Thursday.
It is against federal law to use the presidential and vice-presidential seals in ways that could convey “a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States.”
While violating this law could result in imprisonment of “not more than six months,” a fine or both, these punishments are rarely doled out.
Trump responded to criticism of the tournament from 9/11 victims’ families by claiming that “Nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately.”
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to clarify the nature of CREW’s complaint against Trump’s golf course.
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