Trump’s gifts from foreign leaders under scrutiny by House oversight committee

Trump's gifts from foreign leaders under scrutiny by House oversight committee
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Congressional investigators are searching for dozens of valuable memorabilia given to former President Donald Trump and his relatives by foreign governments, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The House Oversight Committee has asked for help locating the items from the National Archives, which is among the agencies tasked with holding presidential gifts, two of the people said.

The eclectic list ranges from golf clubs given to Trump by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to a 2018 World Cup soccer ball given to him by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and a gold-plated necklace from Horus, the ancient Egyptian god with the head of a falcon, given to him by the president of Egypt. ., a large Trump painting of El Salvador’s president, and a $6,400 necklace of King Abdulaziz al Saud, a ceremonial honor from Saudi Arabia, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an investigation. in progress.

The dozens of gifts have an estimated value of $50,000 or more, according to people familiar with the solicitation. The committee has asked the archives to check whether the gifts are among the items transferred there from the White House at the end of Trump’s presidency as required by law, according to people familiar with the request. The committee is also seeking records from the Trump team about their record keeping, a Trump adviser said.

It is not clear why the Oversight Committee made the request for these specific items; A committee spokesman declined to comment, except to say the investigation is ongoing. The Archives also declined to comment, and it’s unclear where the agency is in the process of trying to find these items and what gifts, if any, on the list were correctly accounted for.

A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment, nor did officials who handled gifts in the Trump administration.

The search comes as Trump confronts an fbi investigation on whether he and his aides mishandled classified documents after agents recovered a slew of records from his Mar-a-Lago home, including highly sensitive intelligence regarding China and Iran.

This summer, the The oversight committee launched its own investigation at the behest of its chairperson, the representative. Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.), on whether Trump correctly followed the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, a 1966 law that prohibits presidents and other government officials to personally keep gifts from foreigners worth more than $415 unless they pay for them.

Under the law, there is no specific criminal penalty for someone who improperly withholds gifts. But ethics experts said the criminal action could be justified under the circumstances.

“If you have a very valuable item that you’re required by law to turn over to the federal government and you don’t, I don’t know if that would preclude criminal action, we’ve just never seen it.” said Virginia Canter, senior ethics advisor for CREW, an ethics watchdog organization.

The Archives Oversight committee’s request includes items Trump’s relatives received but may not have been properly reported to the State Department; items that were documented as being potentially in Trump’s executive residence in the White House, the West Wing, or other locations, for example, Trump Tower or Mar-a-Lago, near the end of the administration; and items likely given away in 2020, according to a person familiar with the matter.

the The New York Times first reported that the State Department was unable to fully account for the gifts Trump and other White House officials received during their last year in office because the White House did not provide the agency with a list of what the officials received from governments foreigners before leaving office. The office was in “total disorder,” according to testimony taken by the committee.

Now, Maloney’s committee is seeking to account for specific gifts. The lengthy request sent to the Archives also includes a framed and signed vintage photo of Queen Elizabeth II; a marble slab commemorating the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem; omani dresses; a bust of Mahatma Gandhi; an Afghan rug; A crystal ball; and various pieces of jewelry, including gold and diamond earrings, according to the person familiar with the request.

The White House Gifts Unit typically records all domestic and foreign gifts received by the president and first family, along with the valuation of the gift, according to a 2012 congressional investigative report. If an official wants to keep a gift, you have the option to pay the full value.

Otherwise, the gift is transferred to the Archives where it is stored for the presidential libraries. Gifts intended for the White House residence are remitted to the park service of the Department of the Interior, and gifts not sent to the Archives or not retained by the president are remitted to the General Services Administration.

Separately, the State Department’s Office of Protocol publishes an annual list of all gifts from a foreign government to a federal employee. According to information provided by the State Department, Trump “failed to comply with the law governing the reporting of foreign gifts” during his last year in office, Maloney wrote in June in a letter requesting a review of Trump’s gifts to the State Department. interim archivist Debra Steidel Wall.

“The State Department noted that during the Trump Administration, the Office of the Chief of Protocol did not request a list of foreign gifts received in 2020 from the White House. The Department is no longer able to obtain the required records,” Maloney wrote to the Archives.

In that letter, Maloney requested all documents and information related to gifts received by Trump or members of his family during the last year of the Trump administration, including the location and value of the gifts, the identity of the donor, and any reports of gifts along with all communications between the Archives and Trump, his family members and White House staff related to foreign gifts.

The failure to account for gifts is part of a pattern of the Trump administration’s record-keeping practices.

The FBI seized numerous items identified as “gifts” during its search of the Mar-a-Lago Club and Trump’s residence in August. It is unclear whether the seized gifts were given to Trump by foreign governments during his tenure and whether they were improperly transferred to Mar-a-Lago.

washington post has previously reported that White House officials in the final days of the Trump presidency raised concerns that some of the gifts Trump had received as president were still sitting in the White House instead of being properly delivered to the National Archives.

Trump took a number of items with him when he left the White House, including a model of the redesigned Air Force One he had proposed and a mini model of one of the black slats on the rim wall that featured an engraved plaque on the back. top, The Post. has previously reported. When the National Archives recovered 15 boxes of materials from Mar-a-Lago in January, they recovered correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that Trump once described as “love letters.”

“This president was very interested in holding on to things,” said a former Trump White House staffer who was involved in records management and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. “Souvenirs and gifts are a big thing for him. Throughout his entire life he has created memories.”

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly said that when he worked for Trump, the president always wanted to keep gifts from foreign leaders. Kelly said that while he instructed staff to follow the process of registering gifts from foreign leaders, when Trump had the opportunity to purchase the gifts, he was adamantly opposed to paying for them.

“He said, ‘I got these, these are my gifts,'” Kelly said, recalling her conversation with Trump. But I would say, ‘No sir, they gave them to the president of the United States.’ You have to see it as an official gift from a country.’ He would be totally against it. He was convinced that they were the gifts from him and he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t keep these gifts”.

“I never remember him buying anything,” Kelly added.

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