Trump's challenge coins create both controversy and cash grab

The Trump administration has created a special challenge coin featuring a representation of the president’s world-famous Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.

The challenge coin, designed by the White House Communications Agency, is one of many created by the military unit since Trump took office. One features the likenesses of Pope Francis and the president while another celebrates Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the New York Times reported. A “Make America Great Again” coin was funded by the Republican National Committee, the paper added.

Numerous other proposals never made it to production, including one featuring Trump Tower in Manhattan and one of the president’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J.

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Challenge coins often are created to commemorate presidential trips or major events, and most are given to military members. President Trump first took a liking to the idea of challenge coins during the presidential campaign and aides quickly started to keep a steady supply on hand to give to dignitaries and military and law enforcement personnel.

Some critics have questioned the minting of coins that depict Trump’s private properties, as federal laws prohibit the use of public funds to promote private institutions.

The Mar-a-Lago coins, for example, are akin to “a metallic tourist brochure,” Norman L. Eisen, a former ethics lawyer in President Barack Obama’s White House and the chairman of watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, told The New York Times.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters countered that assertion by saying ethics rules did not apply to the Mar-a-Lago coins as they were funded by private staffers in the military unit and “no public funds were used” in their production.

Despite those claims, the White House Counsel’s Office is still warning staffers to be wary of where they display their coins.

In regards to the “Make America Great Again” coin - which is thicker, wider and has more gold than those of preceding presidents and features Trump’s now-famous campaign slogan instead of the traditional presidential seal with the national motto, E pluribus unum – the counsel’s office told recipients not to display the coin, or anything with the campaign slogan on it, inside a government building.

Probably the most controversial of all the coins is the one made for Trump’s summit with Kim, which was lambasted by Trump’s political opponents for featuring the likeness of the North Korean strongman.

“He is a brutal dictator and something like the Peace House would be much more appropriate,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted.

Still, a Pennsylvania-based private company called The White House Gift Shop reportedly saw huge demand for the coin, and was selling a version of it for $49 online.