Fact-Check: Did Trump Illegally Use the President's Seal on Letter Resigning from SAG-AFTRA?

Donald Trump appeared to use the Presidential Seal of the United States in his letter resigning from SAG-AFTRA, which he also signed off as "President Donald Trump."

Former President Donald Trump may have left the White House for his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, but a recent letter signed and sealed by him suggests he still considers himself to be the commander-in-chief of the United States.

Trump has been banned from Twitter but a letter in which the ex-president tendered his resignation from the Screen Actors Guild—American Federation of Television and Radio Artists – a union representing actors, broadcasters and performing artists – is being widely circulated on social media.

Trump's Resignation Letter

Donald Trump
Wikimedia Commons

Trump addressed the letter to President Gabrielle Carteris to rescind his membership from the group after it threatened to remove him over his involvement in the deadly Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol. The Lincoln Project was among the first to share a copy of the resignation letter on Twitter along with the caption, "Of course this is real."

"I write today regarding the so-called disciplinary committee hearing aimed at revoking my union membership. Who cares!," he wrote, before bragging about his various TV and film roles and creating "thousands of jobs" at news networks such as "MSDNC" (he meant MSNBC) and "Fake News CNN."

"Your organization has done little for its members, and nothing for me—besides collecting dues and promoting dangerous un-American policies and ideas," he wrote. "I no longer wish to be associated with your union."

Claim: Trump is 'Misusing' the Presidential Seal

While the letter sparked controversy over Trump's level of pettiness, social media users almost immediately noticed that Trump used a seal bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Presidential Seal and even signed the document as "President Donald Trump."

Meanwhile, others pointed out that Trump's use of the Presidential Seal was a legal offence.

According to the Cornell Law School, "Whoever knowingly displays any printed or other likeness of the great seal of the United States, or of the seals of the President...shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both."

Fact-Check

The seal of the President of the United States is a symbol of presidency and is used to mark correspondence from the POTUS to the U.S. Congress and other members of the government. The central design of the seal comprises of the Great Seal of the United States – the country's national symbol. The seal is surrounded by text that reads, "The Seal of the President of the United States."

While the seal used by Trump on his letterhead appears to look like the Presidential Seal, it is, in fact, bearing the Great Seal of the United States with the addition of three stars at the bottom and text that reads, "The Office of Donald J. Trump." Here is a an image comparison of the seal used by Trump, the Presidential Seal and the Great Seal of the United States:

Trump's seal
The seal used by Donald Trump on his letterhead. Twitter
Presidential Seal and The Great Seal
The Presidential Seal (left) and The Great Seal of the United States. Twitter

The Great Seal of the United States has also been used by former presidents including George W. Bush and Barrack Obama have also used the seal either on correspondence or on their official website.

Therefore, Trump's use of the seal is well within the limits of the law and as far as signing a letter as "President" is concerned, it does not appear to be out of the ordinary as well. Many of Obama's statements have also carried the signature, "President Obama," including his statement on the Jan. 6. Capitol riots last month.

This article was first published on February 5, 2021
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