U.S. Embassies Post Article Extolling Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

In Conflict of Interest On
- Updated

WASHINGTON — The State Department is tasked with promoting American interests abroad, but marketing a private club owned by the president of the United States has not generally been part of its official duties — until now.

An article posted on many United States Embassy websites around the world gives a visitors’ guide to Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s club in Palm Beach, Fla., that has become something of a “winter White House” because of his frequent visits there.

It is a straightforward description of the resort: “When socialite and cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post built Mar-a-Lago — Spanish for ‘Sea to Lake’ — in 1927, she spared no expense,” the article notes. “The 114-room mansion sits on eight hectares of land, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and an inland waterway on the other.”

The article goes on to say that Ms. Post willed the estate to the federal government, hoping it would become a vacation home for presidents. But when no president used it that way, the government gave it back. It notes that Mr. Trump bought the estate in 1985; he opened it to dues-paying members in 1995. His visits there have “finally” fulfilled Ms. Post’s dream, the article states.

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— The State Department removed its promotion of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort Monday following a storm of criticism. The AP’s Julie Bykowicz reports: “In an April 4 blog post that was republished by several U.S. embassies abroad, Mar-a-Lago was described as ‘Trump’s Florida estate,’ where he has hosted foreign leaders. ‘By visiting this ‘winter White House,’ Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer,’ the post said. Left unsaid: Mar-a-Lago is part of Trump’s business empire. After his election, the resort doubled its membership fee to $200,000. The State Department said late Monday that its intention was ‘to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders’ and that it regrets ‘any misperception.’ The White House did not respond to questions about whether it had any involvement in the original posting or the decision to take it down.”

The Mar-a-Lago post was nearly three weeks old but gained traction Monday when several people noticed the U.S. embassy to the United Kingdom was featuring it: “Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, asked on Twitter why taxpayers are ‘promoting the president’s private country club’ and referred to the incident as ‘kleptocratic.’ Former Obama-era White House ethics attorney Norm Eisen said the promotion is ‘exploitation,’ comparing it to Kellyanne Conway’s promotion of Ivanka Trump’s clothing business during a West Wing interview earlier this year. ‘This idea of using government for private gain is metastasizing,’ Eisen said. ‘It must be stopped.’ And Richard Painter, who served in the ethics role for Bush, tweeted that the State Department post was, ‘Use of public office for private gain pure and simple.'”

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