Earlier this week,Donald and Melania Trump headed to Houston on the heels of Hurricane Harvey;the first lady wore a
FLOTUS hat,while the president chose a white baseball cap that read “USA.” To the untrained eye,the USA hat looked
like a generic souvenir a tourist might buy on a trip to DC. This particular hat,though,is official merchandise
available on Trump’s re-election campaign site. Selling for $40,the hat reads “Trump” on the
back and has the number 45 on the side.
Watchdog group Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer told NPR“there's no apparent line for the president on how his office can be used for
financial benefit, for profit going into his pocket or money going into his campaign. In essence, he's now licensing
the presidency.” The White House issued photos of the president on the ground in Texas wearing the hat,but did
not comment when the question of ethics was raised by inquiring reporters. Walter Shaub,the former director of the US Office of
Government Ethics,on the other hand,took to Twitterto say the presser would be “more convincing” if Trump wasn’t
wearing his own merch.
NPR notes that no other president has initiated re-election efforts as early as Trump has,and while
the proceeds of the merch won’t go to Trump directly,they will be allocated to his 2020 campaign. In 2016,$11 million worth of fundsfrom his campaign went to Trump-related enterprises
like the Trump building that served as campaign headquarters. At a time when people across the country are gathering tosend moneyto those affected by Hurricane Harvey,wearing a hat whose profits go
right back to your cause is certainly a controversial move. —Chavie