President Donald Trump and his Trump Organization may be breaking the law at their golf courses, and that’s because the clubs may be using the Presidential seal in an illegal way.
According to ProPublica, the Trump Organization has recently ordered a number of tee markers which are facsimiles of the Presidential seal. Why would using those be illegal? Under federal law, the Presidential seal is only to be used for official federal government business. Misusing it for a purpose aside from official business can be considered a crime.
Other entities outside the federal government have used the Presidential seal in the past, only to be compelled to stop. The seal cannot even be misused in a satirical context, based on past enforcement of the statute.
ProPublica tracked down the manufacturer of the signs as Eagle Sign and Design, which has offices around the country. Eagle Sign and Design confirmed they received and confirmed an order for the Presidential seal tee markers, and they made them. A photo of the markers were posted on Eagle Sign and Design’s Facebook page under the album title Trump International Golf Club, and the signs were ordered by “Trump International.” It’s very plausible these signs could be used as Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., where Trump frequently plays golf when he is staying at nearby Mar-a-Lago, his private club.
Violating 18 U.S. Code § 713, which covers the use of the likeness of the Great Seal of the United States, can be punishable by six months in prison.
Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama each used golf balls with the Presidential seal on them. However, they were for personal use, not in a private, business capacity. There is a distinction for those uses under the statute.
The Trump Organization and the White House did not respond to a request for comment from ProPublica.