‘Winter White House’: US embassy’s Mar-a-Lago web page removed amid criticism

US embassy in London devoted page to Donald Trumps private country club, conflating public institutions and presidents business interests, experts say

The US embassy in London has taken down a web page publicising Donald Trumps country club at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, triggering outrage as the latest example of the blurring of lines between public institutions and the presidents business interests under the new administration.

The page on the embassy site devoted to Mar-a-Lago, described it as the winter White House, although it continues to be a private club with annual membership fees of $200,000.

The embassy web page linked to a fuller description of the property by Share America, part of the Bureau of International Information Programmes, and the state departments platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.

The US embassys website. Photograph: uk.usembassy.gov

The web posts gave details of the opulent past of the eight hectare estate and 114-room mansion, built in 1927 for a cereal heiress and socialite, Marjorie Merriweather Post, who willed it to the US government in 1973. However, neither Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter used it and it was returned to private ownership in 1981.

The website suggested that Posts dream of a winter White House came true with Trumps election in 2016.

Trump purchased the estate in 1985, and has used Mar-a-Lago to entertain foreign dignitaries, including the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, in February, and Chinese president, Xi Jinping, earlier this month.

The use of the state department website for such publicity was denounced by the presidents critics and government ethics experts.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden asked on Twitter: Why are taxpayer [dollars] promoting the Presidents private country club? and provided a link to the web page in all its kleptocratic glory.

Norman Eisen, who was special counsel for ethics and government reform in the Obama White House, said the web page broke federal regulations because the state department and embassies are using official channels to promote a private business, which happens to be that of their ultimate superior, the president.

Eisen said: This is outrageous more exploitation of public office for Trumps personal gain.

By Monday evening, the page had been taken down.

The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the President has been hosting world leaders, a state department official said. We regret any misperception and have removed the post.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/24/us-embassy-site-outrage-mar-a-lago-winter-white-house