The U.S. State Department has twice promoted President Donald Trump‘s privately owned Mar-a-Lago country club in Florida on government-run websites, raising new questions about conflicts of interest.
A blog post about this history of Mar-a-Lago by author Leigh Hartman first appeared on Share America, a website run by the State Department, on April 4. (The State Department removed the post on Monday after it received attention.) The post was summarized in an April 5 blog post on the website for the U.S. embassy in London, which directed readers back to the full Share America piece. The State Department’s bureau of Economic and Business Affairs also promoted the blog post on Facebook.
It wasn’t until Monday, however, when people took notice after reporter Amy Westervelt questioned the embassy blog post.
Someone please tell me why the fuck the US embassy in London is advertising Mar-a-Lago: https://t.co/ZcqjslRd4c— Ida Tarbell (@amywestervelt) April 24, 2017
Democratic lawmakers took notice, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) criticized the State Department for “promoting” Trump’s private business using “taxpayer $$.”
Yes, I am curious @StateDept. Why are taxpayer $$ promoting the President's private country club? pic.twitter.com/IlPhUlvMwa— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) April 24, 2017
It is unclear how the editorial processes work at either Share America or the U.S. embassy blog. A State Department official told the Daily Dot in an email that the article was intended to “to inform the public about where the President has been hosting world leaders.” A spokesman for Sen. Wyden declined to comment further but said his office has not received any information from the State Department or the White House regarding the senator’s criticism.
Mar-a-Lago, located in West Palm Beach, has become a point of contention for President Trump’s critics who see his frequent use of what he has dubbed the “winter White House” as a symbol of his dismissive attitude toward potential conflicts of interest.
Of the 14 weekends in Trump’s presidency so far, he has spent seven at Mar-a-Lago and 12 at Trump-owned properties. The president hosted both Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the resort, which is only available to members who pay $200,000 per year. Trump’s full visitor lists at Mar-a-Lago and the White House remain secret.
Each trip to Mar-a-Lago is estimated to cost over $3.5 million in government funds, some of which are paid to the Trump-owned resort itself.
It is unlikely that Trump will continue to visit Mar-a-Lago at the same pace as summer arrives in the U.S. An avid golfer, the president is expected to begin using the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, more frequently in the coming months.
Update 6:30pm CT, April 24: The State Department has removed its post about Mar-a-lago. We have also added a statement from a State official.