Is Donald Trump still using Presidential Seal? Letterhead slammed as ‘illegal’ but here's why it's not a crime

In a shocking series of tweets that have surfaced on the micro-blogging site, Trump seems to be allegedly ‘misusing’ the Presidential Seal

                            Is Donald Trump still using Presidential Seal? Letterhead slammed as ‘illegal’ but here's why it's not a crime
Donald Trump under fire over use of Presidential seal (Getty Images / Twitter)

Ex-president Donald Trump on January 20, 2021, said his final goodbye to the White House and departed with his wife Melania Trump on Marine One, hours before the inauguration of his successor Joe Biden. 

The 74-year-old who was banned from Twitter and other social media sites in early January is making all efforts to stay relevant. In a shocking series of tweets that have surfaced on the micro-blogging site, he seems to be allegedly “misusing” the Presidential Seal. It first came to notice when The Lincoln Project shared a copy of the resignation letter from SAG-AFTRA online.


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Donald Trump (Getty Images)

The political action committee formed in late 2019 by former and present Republicans who aimed to prevent the re-election of Trump during the elections posted, “Of course this is real.” Addressed to SAG-AFTRA's president Gabrielle Carteris, it read, “While I’m not familiar with your work, I’m very proud of my work on movies such as ‘Home Alone 2’, ‘Zoolander’ and ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’; and television shows including ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’, ‘Saturday Night Live’, and of course, one of the most successful shows in television history, ‘The Apprentice’ – to name just a few.”

While the letter had already sparked much controversy, what caught Twitter users' attention was the seal on that document. 


Is Donald Trump still using Presidential Seal? 

The seal on that letter sparked much controversy online. If you want a closer look, here's the seal Donald Trump's letterhead carries: 

Donald Trump's Letterhead Seal


“Is that the Presidential seal? And why is he signing as President of the United States”? one user said and another posted, “Using that Presidential Seal on his Stationary is probably ILLEGAL!” Joy-Ann Reid chimed in, “Is this a parody??? Please tell me it’s a parody! And this man has actually made his own President For Life Letterhead!!”  

One tweet read “Setting aside the sheer absurdity of this letter, wouldn't the use of the seal in this letterhead constitute trademark infringement since it is so strikingly similar to the presidential seal and thus may cause confusion in commerce?” And another said, “It’s the dollar store presidential seal for me.”







What exactly is the Presidential Seal?

A symbol of presidency, the seal of the President of the United States is used to mark correspondence from the president of the United States to the US Congress. The central design, based on the Great Seal of the United States, is the official coat of arms of the US presidency and also appears on the presidential flag.

The basic design of today's seal originated with Rutherford B Hayes, who was the first to use the coat of arms on White House invitations in 1877. 

Here are a few images of the Presidential Seal: 

The Seal of the President of the United States (Wikimedia Commons)

The Seal of the President of the United States (Wikimedia Commons)

Has the Presidential Seal been used earlier? 

At one time, private use of the seal was considered illegal. Back in 1965, a Texas bootmaker sparked controversy when he created leather boots embossed with the presidential seal. Even though it had been handmade for President Lyndon Johnson as a gift, it drew many objections. Moreover, the Baltimore Sun stated the “use of the presidential seal is illegal” when an ashtray bearing the sign was seen in Johnson's ranch. 

In another such fascinating tale, the Richard Nixon administration first refused a request from a publisher to add the presidential seal on the book jacket but the president gifted his 24-year-old daughter Tricia a ring designed with the seal. At the time, Tricia told reporters: “You know you can only wear the presidential seal with permission.”

In 1999, when President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, decided to move to Chappaqua, NY, the White House demanded that T-shirts bearing the seal together with the legend “Secret Service, Chappaqua Bureau, Presidential Detail” be stopped.

The Seal of the President of the United States


Is using Presidential Seal criminal?

Rothamel v Fluvanna County was one of the first cases in a federal district court in Virginia that debated on that topic.

The court documents read, “Plaintiff Bryan Rothamel challenges the constitutionality under the First Amendment of an ordinance of Fluvanna County, Virginia that restricts the display or use of the image of the official seal of Fluvanna County. Plaintiff requests a declaration that the ordinance violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and that his uses of the seal constitute protected speech under the First Amendment.l”

A local blogger challenged the law. The court agreed in contrast with Section 713 saying the federal statute was “narrowly tailored” to further the “legitimate interest in preventing the seal's deceptive or misleading use.” According to a detailed Chicago-Tribune report, the use of the seal is banned only in the case where it is either deceptive or misleading.

Now, however, times have changed and if you hop over to Amazon, you can check out a range of cuff links, shot glasses, decals, lapel pins, coffee mugs, aprons, T-shirts, note pads or baseball caps emblazoned with the presidential seal. In fact, they can be personalized too. 

MEAWW cannot independently verify and does not support any claims being made on the Internet.

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