NEW YORK (AP) — 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, the Trump Organization said Tuesday.
The statement to The Associated Press came a day after a report from two news organizations that said order forms for dozens of presidential seals listed “Trump International Golf Course” as the customer. Under federal law, the seal bearing the American eagle can only be used for official government business, with violations punishable by up to two years in jail.
“The plaques were presented to the club by a small group of members, who are incredible fans of the president, in honor of Presidents’ Day weekend,” said Trump Organization spokeswoman Amanda Miller. “They were temporary and have since been removed.”
The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for clarification on who ordered the plaques, the names of the members who “presented” them, how they were displayed and at what club.
ProPublica and WNYC reported Monday that the president’s company ordered the seal plaques to be used to mark where golfers should stand while teeing off on Trump courses. A photo accompanying the story, which was attributed to an unnamed source at the plaque manufacturing company, showed a table with at least 32 of the replica seals on it.
The president is mostly exempt from conflict-of-interest laws that prevent officials of the executive branch from profiting off their government positions. And lobbyists, special interest groups and diplomats have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars already at Trump properties.
But federal law regarding the presidential seal is another matter. It specifically bans the use of the seal for private purposes in a way that gives a “false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States.”
Manufacturers are also prohibited from “knowingly” making the seal for anything other than “official use” by the U.S. government, punishable by fines and jail.
The company behind the presidential seals, Eagle Sign & Design in New Albany, Indiana, did not reply to phone calls and emails.
A Facebook page by the Eagle Sign & Design had a link to photos of its products that displays a blank page with the words “Presidential Seal” and “Trump International Golf Course,” but no photo. ProPublica/WNYC reported that there was a photo of the plaques there before it published its story.