Is Trump Using His Public Office to Sell Hats?

President wears campaign merchandise while touring areas affected by Hurricane Harvey

Donald Trump hat
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

President Donald Trump wore a hat sold to raise money for his re-election campaign during his Tuesday visit to the areas of Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey, grabbing the attention of ethics watchdog groups.

Trump was widely photographed wearing the “USA” cap when he arrived in Corpus Christi, Texas and during his subsequent briefing with Governor Greg Abbott about the natural disaster. The new images follow two official photos released by the White House showing Trump sitting in cabinet meetings about the storm while wearing the hats.

The cap, which reads “USA,” is sold in red or white for $40 on the president’s re-election campaign website.

The self-promotion has caught the eye of ethics watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has flagged the behavior on Twitter.

“Wearing a campaign hat, @realDonaldTrump opens [a speech addressing hurricane victims] as if it was a campaign rally. Are we sure that it wasn’t?” the group wrote.

Former New Republic editor Gabriel Snyder called Trump’s wearing of the hat “product placement” in a series of tweets, joining a chorus of people wondering whether the choice of attire violates an ethics rule.

“This seems at best sketchy and at worst the violation of an ethics rule,” wrote former Barack Obama advisor and “Pod Save America” co-host Dan Pfeiffer.