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Trump's Air Force One video trashing Mayor Bill de Blasio may have violated law

A video screen grab shows President Donald Trump speaking behind his desk aboard Air Force One with the presidential seal seen in the background.

By DAVE GOLDINER | New York Daily News | Published: May 18, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — While jetting on Air Force One to a political fundraising event, President Donald Trump may have broken the law, as he sat behind his desk calling New York Mayor Bill de Blasio soft on crime and quick on taxes.

The video reveals a potentially big problem for Trump, according to one ethics watchdog. Over Trump's left shoulder, affixed above a window, is the presidential seal.

That's a big no-no, according to Virginia Canter, an ethics lawyer with Citizens Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonpartisan watchdog group.

"It's not appropriate to use the seal in this way," said Canter, a former assistant White House counsel. "It sends the message that this is the official view of the U.S. government ... not a political (attack)."

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Canter says the violation was especially egregious because Trump sought to mimic his White House environment in the video.

"It has the same import as him sitting behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office," she said, calling the violation "offensive."

Misusing the seal is a misdemeanor that carries a potential penalty of six months behind bars, Canter said.

Trump's reelection campaign will also have to reimburse taxpayers for his use of the spiffy plane for his political trip from Washington to a big-bucks Manhattan fundraiser.

White House spokesman Judd P. Deere had no comment on the video. He noted that political organizations regularly pay for Trump's travel on Air Force One when it's for political purposes.

"The appropriate political committee funds their portion of the president's political travel for that trip," Deere said.

Trump's reelection campaign could immediately be reached for comment.

De Blasio hit back at the video, claiming that it showed the weakness of a "low energy" Trump.

"It's music to my ears," de Blasio said.

Ethics experts have previously slammed Trump for intentionally using Air Force One as a backdrop during campaign speeches.

While not illegal, they called that practice shady because it conveys the backing of the government for a particular candidate.

Trump Cabinet officials have also been accused of skirting close to the Hatch Act, which bans officials from campaigning in their official capacity. The president and his aides are exempt from those rules.

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