16:38 GMT +306 December 2019
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    This Monday, Nov. 21, 2016, photo, shows the Mar-a-Lago resort owned by President-elect Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Fla.

    Department of (E)state: Why Are US Gov’t Websites Promoting Trump’s Mar-a-Lago?

    © AP Photo / Lynne Sladky
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    Pictures, information and links to the so-called Winter White House have appeared on websites administered by the US Department of State, and it’s left not a few people wondering whether the government should be spending its time advertising one of Trump’s private properties.

    “Why are taxpayer $$ promoting the President’s private country club?” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon tweeted on Monday. 

    Trump’s Mar-a-Lago charges members $200,000 in initiation fees to join the high-end club  a mere pittance to cover the estate’s high operating costs. The president controversially spends a lot of time there: seven of his 14 weeks so far in office, Trump has spent the weekend in Florida. The trips have racked up a roughly $25 million tax bill — and we haven’t even hit Trump’s 100th day in office. 

    Observers immediately began wondering where exactly the Office of Government Ethics stands on the issue, as publicly funded staff and resources are being used to drive traffic and attention to one of Trump’s private enterprises.

    ​Surely the State Department could spend its time addressing the near-nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula or jihadist terror groups’ activities in the Middle East and Africa. After all, this is a diplomatic group, not a marketing team. 

    ​So far, the puff pieces attracting people “curious” about Mar-a-Lago have popped up on the US Embassy in London’s website, as well as Share America, the State Department’s version of Upworthy. 

    ​House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California joined in the criticisms, asking, “Why is @realDonaldTrump’s State Dept promoting the President’s private club? #Trump100Days.”

    ​This is not the first time  and who really thinks it’ll be the last?  that the Trump family has appeared to prioritize private gains in public office, where employees are supposed to be working for the public good and social welfare. The same day Ivanka Trump met Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier in April, for instance, her company landed three exclusive trademarks to sell certain products in China, one of the most lucrative markets in the world.

    ​UPDATE 7:01 p.m. EST: Following backlash over the questionable ethics decision to feature Trump's Mar-a-Lago on US government websites, the page has been deleted from Share America, a division of the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP).

    ​"A new low for IIP," a former bureau official told BuzzFeed News. "The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders," Share America said, adding, "we regret any misperception."


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    Mar-a-Lago, State Department, Ron Wyden, Pelosi, Donald Trump, Florida
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