President Trump on Saturday used Twitter to promote one of his business’s golf courses and linked it to US foreign policy, prompting ethics criticisms from some who called it inappropriate “presidential profiteering.”
The president, who refused to divest from his private businesses when he took office, tweeted about the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland: “Very proud of perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world,” he wrote. “Also, furthers U.K. relationship!”
It’s not the first time that Trump has publicized one of his golf courses since taking office in 2017.
But Saturday’s tweet was dubbed Trump’s “most explicit commingling of personal interests and public office to date” by Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics.
“This is shameless, corrupt and repugnant presidential profiteering,“ Shaub tweeted in a blistering commentary on Trump’s potential conflicts of interest. “This is an invitation to graft.”
Shaub resigned as the director of the Office of Government Ethics in 2017 after months of clashing with Trump’s administration over ethical concerns, including the president’s refusal to divest his businesses.
The criminal conflict of interest statute, 18 U.S.C. § 208, says public officials in the executive branch are subject to criminal penalties if they if they personally and substantially participate in matters in which they (or their immediate families, business partners, or associated organizations) hold financial interests. However, Congress amended it in 1989 to exclude the president and vice president from section 208.
In a 1983 advisory letter, the then-director of the Office of Government Ethics said that while the president and vice president are not legally subject to conflict of interest laws “as a matter of policy,” they “should conduct themselves as if they are so bound.”
A spokesperson for the Office of Government Ethics declined to comment Monday.
Shaub is now a frequent Trump critic on Twitter and currently serves as a senior adviser to the nonprofit legal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which has extensively reported on Trump’s potential conflicts of interest since he became president.
Trump highlighted his own businesses in speeches, interviews, and tweets 33 times in his first year in office, according to a 2018 CREW report. In his second year, he mentioned or referred to his company 68 times, according to a CREW report from January.
“It’s one thing for the president to tweet about his businesses during ‘executive time,’ but around three-quarters of instances of promotion by President Trump over the past year involved the president mentioning his businesses during press conferences, speeches, and public remarks, often explicitly endorsing the properties he still profits from,” the CREW report said.
The 2019 report found at least 16 tweets from his @realDonaldTrump account that mentioned or praised Trump businesses, including retweets from the official Trump Organization Twitter account.
Trump praised his golf course Saturday while retweeting a tweet from the official Trump Organization account.
The report also found that “Trump made 118 visits to properties he still profits from in office, bringing his two-year total to 281 visits.”
“President Trump has tried to use the presidency to enrich himself by promoting his businesses as extensions of his administration,” the CREW report said. “That includes conducting government business at them, praising them in his official capacity, and even going so far as to offer exclusive perks to members of his clubs including access to government leaders, influence on government business, and in some cases, appointments to government positions.”
As several observers noted Saturday, Trump’s tweet promoting his golf course in Scotland came just days after he lost a lawsuit against the Scottish government to halt a wind power development that Trump claimed would spoil the view at his golf course.
Judges ruled that Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf resort will have to pay the Scottish government an undisclosed amount in legal fees incurred as part of the lawsuit, the BBC reported.
Trump’s tweet also prompted some to express concerns about ethical violations and conflicts of interest, including Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu.