The Trump Organization Is Selling Merchandise With Images of the White House

Experts have called the new products a conflict of interest.

The "Cherry Blossom Bar Soap Set"TrumpStore.com/Wayback Machine

Several items currently on sale at the official Trump Store online and, reportedly, at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, feature images of the White House, including two t-shirts, a mug, and a soap set.

The “Cherry Blossom Collection,” as news site 1100 Pennsylvania first pointed out, is “inspired by” the Trump International Hotel in DC, according to the Trump Organization. 

Experts were quick to note the ethical dilemma of potentially using the presidency for monetary gain. Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, an independent agency watchdog, tweeted Thursday that the product line is part of the president’s ongoing “conflicting financial interest” in running the hotel. 

It’s also not the first time the Trump Organization has found itself in conflict-of-interest territory. As Mother Jones‘ David Corn wrote in January, foreign governments and corporations have been putting money into Trump’s pocket via his hotel chain throughout his presidency. Last year, the organization removed golf tee markers decorated with the presidential seal. As ProPublica reported at the time, replicating the seal for non-government business is a possible criminal offense.

The hotel is also part of a lawsuit filed by Washington DC and the state of Maryland, which argues that Trump violated the Constitution’s emoluments clauses when he took office while retaining ownership in the hotel.

By Sunday, Trump Store online appeared to have taken down the images of the White House on its soap set, selling for $22. It’s unclear if the new Trump merchandise breaks any laws, but it is certainly unprecedented.

“Never did we see President Obama, or President Bush, or President Clinton, or the other President Bush, or Reagan, creating merchandise to benefit themselves personally that profits off his name and position as the president of the United States,” Jessica Tillipman, a government ethics expert at George Washington University Law School, told The Independent.

“One would hope just like prior administrations you would have a president in office who doesn’t want to give people the appearance he’s profiting off his position.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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