Controversy has ensued after ProPublica reported this week that Donald Trump had ordered 12-inch replicas of the presidential seal to be used as golf tee markers. For anyone unclear on what that means, the presidential seal is the symbol shown in the cover photo above, that is used to mark correspondence from the U.S. president to the U.S. Congress, and is also used as a symbol of the presidency. If you are unfamiliar with what golf tee markers are, they are not the tees people place their balls on but rather a marker showing where to tee-off from.
So Donald Trump ordered tee markers with the presidential seal to be tee markers at one of his many golf courses, which one is unclear. This news has lots of people as well as publications wondering if what the president is doing is illegal and/or unethical.
A trump fan I am not. Tacky? Full of himself? Lacking in class? Perhaps. But believe it or not, what he’s doing is not illegal, and in my eyes not unethical.
Publications that have pointed out that what Trump is doing may be illegal are going by this section of statute 713 of Title 18 of the U.S Code states..
“A law governs the manufacture or use of the seal, its likeness, ‘or any facsimile thereof’ for anything other than official U.S. government business. It can be a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in prison.”
It would seem at first glance that Trump is breaking the law according to the above definition. But if you read further Under Section 713, one commits a crime only by displaying the seal..
“in a manner reasonably calculated to convey a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the government of the United States or by any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof.”
Placing a presidential seal on something doesn’t necessarily give a false impression that they have approval from the government. As a matter of fact Amazon.com sells a whole bunch of items with the presidential seal on them. From mugs, to shot glasses, t-shirts, and even golf balls, you can find and purchase these items all over the internet.
The fact is anything Trump wants to have at his golf course, is by definition approved by the government, so there cannot be any false impression of government approval. So call it what you want, bad taste, selfish, silly, or awesome, but me claiming bad form on Trump here would be like me writing an article bashing the guy with way too many accessories on his car.