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    Sunday, April 21, 2024

    Trump is licensing his image to sell Bibles ahead of Easter

    Former president Donald Trump has never shied away from using his name or likeness to try to make money. Before he entered politics, the former “Apprentice” host hawked Trump-branded steaks, vodka, neckties and even furniture.

    Since leaving the White House, however, Trump’s licensing of his brand has taken a turn for the more unconventional.

    He has rolled out a line of Trump-branded digital trading cards and $99 cologne “for the movers, the shakers, and the history makers.” Last month he unveiled $399 “Never Surrender” sneakers — a message of defiance in the face of his many legal entanglements. And this week he announced he was licensing his image to sell $59.99 Bibles.

    Some of Trump’s pitches are designed to benefit his campaign, but most appear to be designed to enrich him personally at a time when he faces a cash crunch amid his legal woes. An appeals court panel in New York on Monday lowered the bond Trump needs to post to stave off the enforcement of a nearly half-billion-dollar civil judgment against him and his business. The bond is now $175 million.

    While it is legal for a former president and current presidential candidate to make money through their own business ventures, Trump’s past behavior with respect to his business dealings raises ethical questions, said Noah Bookbinder, president of the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.

    “If you’re not using things like the seal of the president, it’s not illegal,” Bookbinder said. “But he’s running for president, and we know based on past experiences that he’s not going to give up his businesses [if elected]. That is in some ways where the ethical and in some cases legal questions come in.”

    Bookbinder said that Trump made clear through his first term in office that he was very open to allowing people to curry favor with him by staying at Trump-branded hotels or doing business with Trump companies.

    “He’s really trying to capitalize at all levels, from all different kinds of supporters,” Bookbinder said. “He’s looking for any kind of opportunity to make money from his political influence, political support and his potential future political office.”

    A representative for Trump declined to comment, noting these were mostly personal business deals not related to the campaign.

    $59.99 ‘God Bless the USA’ Bibles

    Earlier this week, Trump urged his supporters to buy $59.99 Bibles that included a handwritten chorus to “God Bless the USA” by singer and supporter Lee Greenwood.

    “Happy Holy Week!” Trump said in a social media post. “Let’s Make America Pray Again. As we lead into Good Friday and Easter, I encourage you to get a copy of the God Bless The USA Bible.”

    According to an ordering website, the Bible “is not political and has nothing to do with any political campaign.” It goes on to declare that the website is not owned, managed, or controlled by Trump or his affiliates.

    “GodBlessTheUSABible.com uses Donald J. Trump’s name, likeness and image under paid license from CIC Ventures LLC, which license may be terminated or revoked according to its terms,” the FAQ states.

    However, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported, CIC Ventures is a conduit to Trump — personally, if not politically. In his financial disclosure released last year, Trump is identified as the company’s “manager, president, secretary and treasurer,” and the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust is identified as a 100 percent owner of the business.

    Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, knocked Trump’s “hypocrisy” in selling a holy book while not, she said, acting in ways that are consistent with the Bible’s teachings.

    “He can be out there hawking it all he wants. But to me, it’s just one more moment of hypocrisy, and I hope people step back and look at some of the things he said and done in his life … and look at what the teachings of the Bible are and make a decision about who they’re going to support or not,” she said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday.

    $399 ‘Never Surrender’ high-top shoes

    In February, Trump rolled out “Never Surrender” high-tops for $399, gold sneakers with stars and red stripes on the sides and red soles. The website gettrumpsneakers.com describes the shoes as “super limited” and noted that at least 10 pairs would be “randomly autographed by Trump.” The sneakers are currently sold out.

    Trump announced the sneakers at Sneaker Con in Philadelphia, holding up the shoes as he spoke, though his remarks also focused on politics.

    “What’s the most important thing? To go out and vote, right?” he said to cheers and boos. “We’ve got to get young people out to vote. And you’re going to vote, and we’re going to turn this thing around.”

    Trump mug shot T-shirts

    Shortly after Trump was booked on felony charges at an Atlanta jail, his reelection campaign began selling T-shirts (and other paraphernalia) emblazoned with his mug shot. The available merchandise has since expanded to include mugs, sweatshirts, beverage coolers and signed posters, all featuring Trump’s mug shot and the words “NEVER SURRENDER” or “NOT GUILTY.”

    Bookbinder, of the watchdog group CREW, said that while those items are legal for campaigns to sell, the message Trump is sending by touting his mug shot is troubling.

    “I would say that that is indicative of the sort of dismissiveness and in some ways contempt that he’s shown for what are very serious legal proceedings against him, particularly when it comes to his having encouraged supporters to try to keep him in power after losing an election and ultimately inciting a violent insurrection,” Bookbinder said.

    $99 ‘Victory 47’ cologne and perfume

    Around the time Trump unveiled his $399 sneakers, he also began selling “Victory 47” cologne and perfume, according to the same website for his sneakers. The name of the fragrances alludes to his hope to return to the White House.

    The cologne is described “a crisp opening of citrus blends into a cedar heart, underpinned by a rich base of leather and amber, crafting a commanding presence.”

    “'Victory' is more than a fragrance - this cologne is for the movers, the shakers, and the history makers,” the website states, noting that the bottle is topped with a golden cap in the shape of Trump’s head.

    At the bottom, the website includes the statement that the items “are registered trademarks and/or trademarks of CIC Ventures LLC” and are “not designed, manufactured, distributed or sold” by Trump, the Trump organization or “any of their respective affiliates or principals.”

    Trump digital trading cards — and pieces of his mug shot suit

    Trump has also promoted so-called NFTs, non-fungible tokens, also known as digital trading cards. The website collecttrumpcards.com describes the cards as a way to “celebrate the life and career of President Donald Trump.”

    Several versions of the cards have been released, including a “MugShot edition” in 2023. Those willing to buy 100 digital trading cards would receive “a piece of President Trump’s Suit from the Mugshot,” according to the website.

    The website states that “NFT INT LLC uses Donald J. Trump’s name, likeness and image under paid license from CIC Digital LLC” and includes the disclaimer that “these Digital Trading Cards are not political and have nothing to do with any political campaign.”

    Trump’s personal financial disclosure last year revealed he made as much as $1 million from CIC digital. Newsweek reported this week that his digital trading cards had been removed from sales until the end of the year.

    Philip Bump and Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report.

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