On his first day in office, President Trump declared on the White House website that he would roll back a clean-water rule that has been opposed as bad for business by a coalition that included his own golf courses.
He also effectively became his own landlord at his District hotel, which his company rents from the federal government despite a lease that forbids such benefits going to any elected official.
A Trump golf course tweeted congratulations to its owner as he became president, though a Trump lawyer had previously promised that no company social media accounts would reference his office.
And in his official biography on the White House website, Trump bragged of the success of the business he still owns and his book, “The Art of the Deal,” which remains for sale. Likewise, first lady Melania Trump’s biography included a reference to sales of her jewelry on the cable television channel QVC and notes it is trademarked, a registration now overseen by a trademark office that is part of the executive branch led by her husband.
Trump’s first day as president was full of reminders that his administration will be entangled with his personal interests in a way unprecedented in presidential politics.
Trump has announced that his sons will manage the real estate, merchandising and licensing concerns that made him famous. He has said he will take no role in the Trump Organization’s operation while serving as president. But he has not divested from the company, meaning he could personally profit from any steps he takes as president that benefit it.
Asked about the potential conflicts Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted that the steps Trump had taken were “above and beyond in terms of making sure he separates himself from his business and hands it over to his kids and put in place a very, very rigorous plan to ensure no conflicts of interest occur.”
But Trump has shown little interest in divorcing himself symbolically from his own company. He attended two inaugural events this week in the District at the Trump International Hotel, opened this year in the Old Post Office building. While there, he bragged about the hotel ballroom.
“This is a gorgeous room,” he said, before jokingly adding, “A total genius must have built this place.”
Moments after he took the office, the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington announced that it had filed a complaint with the General Services Administration over Trump’s ownership of the hotel, noting that his company’s lease with the federal agency bars elected officials from receiving “any share or part of [the Lease], or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.”
The Democratic-leaning watchdog group also complained that Trump has already violated a constitutional prohibition against the president accepting emoluments, or payments, from foreign officials. Trump has said his company will donate to the Treasury any profit it makes from foreign governments or officials that rent rooms at his hotels but has provided no details on how the donation system will work or how other foreign-linked income might be treated.
The investigative news service ProPublica reported Friday that there was no sign that the Trump Organization had updated registration papers filed in New York, Florida and Delaware to remove Trump as director of the various corporate entities associated with the Trump Organization. A lawyer for Trump had promised that the corporate structure would be changed “for the duration of his presidency” and posed in front of a table full of manila folders which the lawyer indicated contained the paperwork implementing the change. A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment about the report.
Trump’s business network also struggled to follow another pledge. Trump’s lawyer said the Trump Organization had ordered that no company communications, including social media, “reference or otherwise be tied to” Trump’s role as president.
But on Friday morning, the Twitter account for Trump National Golf Club Charlotte, the North Carolina golf complex that Trump’s company bought in 2013, tweeted a picture from the greens that read, “Our flag, dancing with excitement! We salute President Trump as he embarks on his journey to #MAGA!” Membership fees at the club last year ranged from $4,000 to $60,000. Late in the day, the golf course appeared to delete the tweet.
During his campaign, Trump, like many Republicans, had said that he opposed a new rule defining waterways that are afforded protection under the Clean Water Act. But the appearance of the issue on his official White House website was another reminder that, as president, Trump has the power to affect change that could help his companies.
The promise came in a section of the site devoted to energy plans: “For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.”
Adopted under former president Barack Obama in 2015, the clean-water rule had been praised by environmental groups as critical to protect waterways, including drinking water and environmental habitats.
A wide array of industry groups had opposed the rule, including the golf industry. A coalition of golf associations, whose membership includes the 12 golf courses Trump owns in the United States, had written letters opposing the adoption of the rule.
“We’re very comforted by the fact that he comes to the White House with a background in the industry. We’re happy to see someone who knows what it takes to maintain a course,” said Bob Helland, the director of congressional and federal affairs for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, whose membership includes employees at Trump courses.
Drew Harwell contributed to this report.