Donald Trump is using the official U.S. presidential seal throughout his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course during the highly controversial LIV tournament financed by Saudi Arabia, despite a previous complaint that it violates federal law.
The seal gives the impression of White House support for a tournament that has triggered a furious uproar in light of Saudi government links to 9/11 and the dismemberment-murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Federal law prohibits use of the presidential seal in any way that could convey “a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States.” The seal can only be used for official government business. Violations can result in a prison term of up to six months.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint last year about Trump’s use of the presidential seals at Bedminster.
“Unlawful use of the presidential seal for commercial purposes is no trivial matter, especially when it involves a former president who is actively challenging the legitimacy of the current president,” CREW stated.
The LIV tour is funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, whose chairman is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. U.S. intelligence determined that he was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Furious families of 9/11 victims have blasted Trump for his callous role in the so-called “sport washing” Saudi tournament aimed at softening the memory of atrocity and improving the Saudi reputation.
In response to criticism for his lucrative participation in the operation, Trump on Thursday ripped the “maniacs who did that horrible thing” of 9/11, but insisted that “nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11.”
He called the Saudis “friends of mine for a long time” and characterized the money being poured into the tournament as a “gold rush” that players should take advantage of.
Though the Saudi government has denied any responsibility of the 9/11 terror attacks, 15 of the 19 al-Qaeda terrorists who carried out the attacks were from Saudi Arabia. After an extensive investigation, the FBI detailed several contacts and phone calls between Saudi officials and the terrorists.
The 9/11 Families United group said said in a statement at the time that the report implicated “numerous Saudi government officials, in a coordinated effort to mobilize an essential support network for the first arriving 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar.”
Trump himself in 2016 repeatedly pointed to the Saudis as likely culprits in 9/11. “Take a look at Saudi Arabia. Open the documents,” Trump insisted then. “Frankly, if you open the documents, I think you are going to see it was Saudi Arabia.”
A group of families of 9/11 victims and survivors of the 9/11 Justice organization gathered Friday outside the Bedminster public library to condemn support by Trump and golfers for the Saudis and their tournament.
“You are taking a stand that you agree with the actions of Saudi Arabia or, just as bad, that you are so incredibly greedy and callous that you really don’t care about these atrocities,” said Juliette Scauso, who was 4 when her dad, firefighter Dennis Scauso, died in the attacks.
“It’s simple,” said Tim Frolich, who was in the South Tower on 9/11. “The Saudis did it. They plotted it, they funded it, and now they are trying to distract every one of those things with a golf tournament 50 miles away from ground zero. It’s deplorable.”
The families earlier this week also created an ad attacking those who are giving the Saudis a pass for money.
Pro golfer Phil Mikelson was booed Friday in the tournament on Trump’s course. As he was about to tee off, a spectator shouted: “You work for the Saudi royal family!”
Trump has also used the presidential seal to boost business at his courses in West Palm Beach and Jupiter, Florida, and in the Bronx, despite legal restrictions.