Post-Election

Ethics Watchdogs Eye First Lady

Ethics watchdogs are up in arms after court documents from an ongoing libel lawsuit against the Daily Mail suggest that Melania Trump might intend to use her high-profile position as First Lady for profit.

While the court documents don’t outright mention her position as First Lady, Bloomberg reported that her lawyers refer to a “multi-year term” in which Mrs. Trump will be “one of the most photographed women in the world,” as potentially leading to her personal brand gaining millions of dollars.

In full, the lawsuit said Mrs. Trump “had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model, brand spokesperson and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multimillion-dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.”

The First Lady reportedly is seeking compensatory and punitive damages of at least $150 million for losses in apparel, accessories, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care and fragrance, among others, the suit said.

Richard Painter, ethics adviser to former President George W. Bush, reportedly said that the language of the lawsuit indicates that Melania Trump is engaging “in an unprecedented, clear breach of rules about using her government position for private gain. This is a very serious situation where she says she intends to make a lot of money. That ought to be repudiated by the White House or investigated by Congress.”

Mrs. Trump’s attorney has refuted the claims, saying the First Lady does not intend to use her position for profit.

Melania Trump is the CEO of Melania Marks Accessories LLC and its holding company, Melania Marks Accessories Member Corp. Both organizations remain active. Bloomberg noted that the Trumps’ May 2016 financial disclosure filing showed that the companies brought in somewhere between $15,000 and $50,000 in royalties from her accessories lines.

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