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State Department uses government website to promote Trump's private country club

State Department uses government website to promote Trump's private country club

A State Department website that promotes travel to the United States included an article this month about the history and lavish furnishings of President Donald Trump's privately-owned Florida resort club Mar-a-Lago, opening questions about whether the federal government is improperly promoting Trump's moneymaking enterprises.

The original article was posted on April 4 on the "Share America" website, overseen by the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs.

Copy on the site says Trump is "belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago's original owner and designer" and invokes the names of foreign dignitaries who have visited the private club during his presidency.

"It is a violation of 2635.702 because the USG, the State Department, and the Embassies are using official channels to promote a private business, which happens to be that of their ultimate superior, the President", Eisen said.

The article goes on to call Trump "a real-estate magnate" and noting he purchased the property in 1985, and "opened the estate to dues-paying members of the public in 1995 as the Mar-a-Lago Club". Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) criticized the State Department for "promoting" Trump's private business using "taxpayer $$". The Trump Organization doubled the price of memberships at Mar-a-Lago to $200,000 a year in January.

American Oversight also said it would ask congressional oversight committees to conduct an "investigation into how and why the article promoting Trump properties was written and distributed". The home was originally built in 1927 by cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post.

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Members of Congress also attacked the Trump administration.

Trump is expected to switch his Mar-a-Lago trips for trips to his gold course in Bedminster, N.J., this summer, though that course has not yet been promoted by the State Department.

But on the webpage about Mar-a-Lago, there is no discussion of policy.

Mark Toner, acting spokesman for the State Department, declined to comment on Monday, saying he hadn't seen the posting. He and the foreign leaders he hosted were never placed in compromising situations where they had to handle a foreign crisis in full view of diners, as Trump and Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe did in February. He turned the home into a lavish country club as well as a residence for himself.

A page on the website of the U.S. embassy in London described Mar-a-Lago as "the winter White House", even though it is a private club and its annual membership fees are $200,000.

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