Branded headwear was at the center of controversy during President Donald Trump’s visit to storm-struck Texas in the aftermath of Harvey, the hurricane turned tropical storm that deluged southeastern portions of the Lone Star State with historic volumes of rain, causing disastrous flooding in Houston and other towns and cities.
During the visit, as well during several public appearances Trump made related to Harvey, the president wore a hat branded with “USA” on the front, “45” on the side and Trump on the back. The messaging is a reference to Trump’s status as the 45th president of the United States. The hat is on sale for $40 at Trump’s website, shop.donaldjtrump.com.
Trump critics wasted no time in lambasting the president for his choice of headwear, accusing him of using the media attention he was receiving for Harvey as a de facto commercial to market his merchandise. Certain critics say the alleged product spotlighting is indicative of Trump’s frequent use of presidential platforms to push his branded merch, particularly headwear.
"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," Fred Wertheimer of the watchdog group Democracy 21 told NPR. "In essence, he's now licensing the presidency."
Similarly, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington also spoke out against Trump’s headwear choice. Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for the group, which is also suing Trump for alleged violations of the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, said: “The White House should be dedicated to the people's business, not Trump's business. It is wholly inappropriate for them to promote Trump products, of any kind, at any time."
The president does not profit directly from sales of his merchandise. The money goes to the Trump re-election campaign.