Since the end of 2017, customers have been able to buy a can of Trump deodorant for $14 online or from a store in New York’s Trump Tower – but no antiperspirant is strong enough to cover up the stench of a president who constantly capitalizes on his position.
It may not strictly be illegal but it is unprecedented for a president to sell items bearing his name and image that are not for the purpose of raising funds for his political campaign or for charity.
“Experts on ethics and the presidency,” reports USA Today, “could not cite prior examples of these items being sold for the president’s personal profit.”
In his usual sneaky way, Trump and his family company, The Trump Organization, never announced that in May 2017 it had formed T Retail LLC in Delaware, and filed business registration forms in the states of New York, Florida, Lousiana and Virginia.
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However, in a 92-page mandatory federal financial disclosure filing last week, Trump had to list his income from the venture, which, reports USA Today, “sells everything from T-shirts and hats to dog leashes and gold bar-shaped coin banks branded with the ‘Trump’ name.”
And of course, deodorant.
For the calendar year 2017, the president’s income from T Retail LLC was over $107,000 – but that was just for online sales and does not include sales from the Trump Tower store.
Since the venture didn’t really get started until November, USA Today estimates that means the president is making about $50,000 a month from the online business.
The items like bathrobes, shot glasses, mugs, golf gear and more bear the Trump name and in many cases a picture of Donald Trump but do not indicate he is president.
There’s a separate online business and physical store, also in the basement of Trump Tower, which sells merchandise branded with the “Make America Great Again” slogan and the presidential logo, apparently to make money that goes to Trump’s political campaigns.
If you don’t think Trump’s side business borders on the inappropriate, you have to wonder why Trump never announced it, and why when USA Today discovered the income on the disclosure statement, it took a week before they could get information on just what it was and where the money came from.
UPDATE: Following publication of our story — and after a week of ignoring questions — the Trump Organization confirmed the mysterious new LLC from which President Trump earned $107K in 2017 is the entity behind https://t.co/KT6kxbjAPm, a new store selling items with Trump's name. https://t.co/RiT2SMroOi
— Steve Reilly (@BySteveReilly) May 24, 2018
The Trump merchandise business may be legal, but it is distasteful for a president to capitalize on his high profile position in such a tawdry way, according to Jordan Libowitz, communications director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington he told USA Today: “It does feel a little unethical.”
“You want to think that the president is above doing this kind of thing — that he’s not considering the presidency as a way to make him money,” added Libowitz, “but as a sacrifice he’s taking in public service.”
While it may not violate ethical standards, Kathleen Clark, a professor at Washington University School of Law who specializes in legal and government ethics, told USA Today, it is “seriously not normal” for a politician to personally profit from a new business based on the use of his or her name.
“The idea of opening up a store to sell merchandise with your name,” said Clark, “when your name is more prominent because you’re President of the United States — arguably this is another example of Trump trying to benefit financially from the presidency.”
This is the latest in a long list of distasteful, ethically challenged and possibly illegal activities by Trump since he became president.
According to USA Today, The Trump Organization made $40 million in 2017 from the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. where many business people and diplomats stay and hold meetings hoping that will please the president.
Trump made millions more last year from his golf clubs, including selling memberships to lobbyists who want to be able to rub elbows with the president at Mar-a-Lago in Florida and at other clubs and resorts.
Trump sold $35 million in real estate in 2017, according to USA Today, “mostly to secretive buyers” who use shell companies to hide the real ownership of their condos.
He is already the subject of multiple lawsuits accusing him of violating the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits elected officials from accepting gifts from foreign entities.
He is the only modern president who will not release his tax returns, refused to put his business assets in a blind trust and profits greatly by using Trump-owned hotels, resorts, and facilities for himself and his family, and promoting their use by others who want to curry favor with the president.
He even makes money by charging the Secret Service to stay nearby when guarding him.
There was a time when people who were elected to the nation’s highest office were proud to show they were above suspicion that they could be bought, or that they were profiting in an unseemly way from their position, but Trump has turned all that upside down.
He seems to approach the presidency as an opportunity to make more money as well as helping those people, companies and even countries that help make him and his family even richer.
Where another president would donate the profits from a business like T Retail LLC to a charity, Trump just tucks it into his pocket and ignores any complaints.
Trump does donate his salary as president, but even that is a tool he uses to promote his views, and what the government pays him is far less than he makes from his private business activities like T Retail LLC, thanks to his position as president.
Looks like as long as Trump is in the White House, we are going to need a lot stronger air cleaners, disinfectants, and deodorants.