State Department reminds staff on ethics after posts on Trump interests

State Department reminds staff on ethics after posts on Trump interests

May 17, 2017

By Yeganeh Torbati

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department’s legal office has reminded employees not to promote private interests on social media after its online accounts publicized President Donald Trump’s private Florida resort and his daughter Ivanka Trump’s new book.

An article on a State Department website in April about Mar-a-Lago and a retweet in May about the book were eventually withdrawn, but the new guidance issued on Tuesday said employees should “exercise caution before using a Department social media account to highlight non-official activities of U.S. government officials and their family.”

The guidance was posted on an internal website and written by the Office of Ethics and Financial Disclosure of the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser.

A State Department official declined to comment on internal communications but said the legal adviser’s office routinely provides guidance to employees on ethics matters.

The guidance was directed to social media managers who oversee hundreds of official government accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms used by State Department agencies, consulates and embassies to communicate information and U.S. foreign policy.

The guidance, which was seen by Reuters, never specifically mentions Trump or his family. But its content appeared to be at least in part in response to the postings on the resort and the book.

“If a government official has a commercial enterprise or has published a book, U.S. government resources should not be used to publicize those ventures,” the guidance said.

The posting on Trump’s resort was shared on the websites and social media accounts of several U.S. embassies. Ethics experts said the piece represented use of public office for private gain. The State Department said the article had been meant to inform the public about where Trump had been hosting world leaders.

A Twitter account for the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues retweeted a post by Ivanka Trump in which she promoted her new book. Ivanka Trump serves in the White House as an adviser to her father.

Trump maintains ownership of his global business empire, though he has handed control to his two oldest sons, an arrangement that ethics watchdogs say does not prevent conflicts of interest.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Yara Bayoumy, Grant McCool and Jonathan Oatis)

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