State Department website promotes Trump's Mar-a-Lago as the 'winter White House'

The State Department is promoting President Donald Trump’s private Florida estate as the “winter White House,” raising ethical questions about how Trump could financially benefit from the presidency.

The website ShareAmerica, the State Department’s “platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics,” and the US embassy in the UK posted articles earlier this month advertising Mar-a-Lago as Trump’s winter retreat at which he conducts official business as president, “belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer.”

The posts gained traction on social media Monday, with one Democratic senator suggesting it was reminiscent of a kleptocracy.

“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 said. “The 114-room mansion sits on 8 hectares of land, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and an inland waterway on the other.”

The article said that upon her death, Post “willed the estate to the US government, intending it to be used as a winter White House for the US president to entertain visiting foreign dignitaries.” In 1981, the government returned the property to the Post Foundation. Trump bought the estate four years later. Ten years later, Trump opened the property as the “Mar-a-Lago Club,” allowing access to dues-paying members of the public.

The article included photos of the lavish property and a January tweet from Trump referring to the estate as the winter White House.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), an ethics watchdog, questioned how the promotion could benefit Trump’s real-estate portfolio.

“This is very troubling and further shows the extent to which the Trump businesses are intertwined with the Trump administration,” CREW communications director Jordan Libowitz said in a statement. “Things like this add to the constant ethical questions raised by the Trump administration’s behaviour when it comes to the president’s portfolio.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, also criticised the State Department’s promotion of the resort.

“Yes, I am curious @StateDept,” he tweeted Monday. “Why are taxpayer $$ promoting the President’s private country club?”

He subsequently shared a link to the ShareAmerica site, pointing to the full post “in its kleptocratic glory.”

Before he took office in January, Trump announced plans to separate himself from his business empire, relinquishing control of the Trump Organisation to his two sons. Ethics experts questioned whether the moves would be enough to prevent conflicts of interest as president.

The State Department didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday.

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