Report: Presidential seal replicas ordered for use at Trump golf courses may violate federal law

Jason Owens
Apparent planned use of the presidential seal for Trump golf courses has raised ethical questions. (Getty)
Apparent planned use of the presidential seal for Trump golf courses has raised ethical questions. (Getty)

UPDATE, 8:30 a.m. ET Wednesday: The Associated Press reported that replicas of the official presidential seal displayed at one of Donald Trump’s golf courses were given to the club by members and have since been removed.

Original report continues below …

The Trump Organization has ordered replicas of the U.S. presidential seal for use as tee markers at Trump International golf courses, ProPublica reports.

The 12-inch replicas of the seal were created by Eagle Sign and Design, a sign-making company based in New Albany, Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky, according to the report. ProPublica saw a copy of the order for the seals with the customer stated as “Trump International.”

The problem with the tee markers is that they stand in violation of federal law prohibiting use of official badges outside of their intended capacity, an infraction that can carry a six-month prison sentence.

Per U.S. Code: Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 33, Section 713:

Whoever manufactures, sells, or possesses any badge, identification card, or other insignia, of the design prescribed by the head of any department or agency of the United States for use by any officer or employee thereof, or any colorable imitation thereof, or photographs, prints, or in any other manner makes or executes any engraving, photograph, print, or impression in the likeness of any such badge, identification card, or other insignia, or any colorable imitation thereof, except as authorized under regulations made pursuant to law, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

Neither the White House or the Trump Organization responded to ProPublica’s request for comment, while the Department of Justice declined to comment on knowledge of the presidential seal being used outside of its official capacity.

Joseph Bates, owner of Eagle Sign and Design, confirmed that his company had made the tee-box markers, but declined with ProPublica and the Louisville Courier-Journal to name who ordered the product.

“Apparently when you do something that is related to Trump it means you’ll get a lot of questions,” Bates told the Courier-Journal. “We just did what our customer wanted.”

The company’s Facebook page posted an image of the seal in February with the headline “Trump International Golf Course.” That photo was removed Monday after the publication of the ProPublica story.

The apparent planned use of the seal at Donald Trump’s private golf courses touches on an ongoing concern of conflict of interest with Trump using his office for personal gain.

Trump has eschewed presidential protocol of divesting private interests while in office. His continued ties to his properties, golf courses and merchandising deals in and outside of the U.S. are unprecedented for a sitting president and present a myriad of ethical questions.

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