After gaining attention and criticism from pundits, politicians, and concerned citizens, the State Department removed a blog post from its website Monday afternoon, which many, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, believed promoted President Trump's privately owned Mar-a-Lago club. The post, which was still partially available on the website for the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in the United Kingdom on Monday night, was initially posted on April 4. It describes the resort as "President Trump’s Florida estate" and "the winter White House," adding that it "has become well known as the president frequently travels there to work or host foreign leaders." (So far during his first term, President Trump has made seven visits to the resort.)
As the post gained attention on Monday, CNN reports that Mark Toner, acting State Department spokesman, "wasn't aware of the post when it was raised by reporters on Monday." Just the same, the original post on Share America — a website run by the State Department to share stories and images with foreign governments and embassies — was replaced with a short explanation:
Politicians who have been previously critical of the President's use of the resort, like Pelosi and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, were quick to tweet out their concerns that the post may have crossed an ethical line.
CNN also reported that experts on presidential ethics matters shared those concerns, writing that Obama-era ethics czar Norm Eisen and George W. Bush's chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter both said that the post was "a violation of federal law that restricts aspects of the government promoting a private business that benefits their superior, the president." Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment.
Additionally, Eisen told CNN that the post was "outrageous, more exploitation of public office for Trump's personal gain," and likened it to when Trump aide Kellyanne Conway made comments urging people to buy from Ivanka Trump's clothing line earlier this year (after the president tweeted that the department store, Nordstrom, treated his daughter unfairly by dropping her clothing line). The Office of Government Ethics recommended that Conway be disciplined for those comments at the time.
As concerns over the costs of and potential personal financial benefits from President Trump's frequent trips to Mar-a-Lago linger, the unprecedented role of the so-called "winter White House" will remain a subject of debate for the foreseeable future.