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State Department websites promote Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, sparking ethics concerns

Donald Trump and State Department Mar-a-Lago blog

Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC-BY-SA) Screenshot via U. S. Department of State: Economic & Business Affairs (fair use)

U.S. government-funded blog posts have raised new questions about the murky conflicts of interest saddling the Trump presidency.

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.

Democratic lawmakers took notice, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) criticized the State Department for “promoting” Trump’s private business using “taxpayer $$.”

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.

Andrew Couts

Andrew Couts

Andrew Couts is the former editor of Layer 8, a section dedicated to the intersection of the Internet and the state—and the gaps in between. Prior to the Daily Dot, Couts served as features editor and features writer for Digital Trends, associate editor of TheWeek.com, and associate editor at Maxim magazine. When he’s not working, Couts can be found hiking with his German shepherds or blasting around on motorcycles.