Two gifts from foreign countries to Trump family missing, report says


Federal officials cannot find two gifts received by President Donald Trump and his family from foreign countries, including a life-size painting of Trump from the president of El Salvador and golf clubs from the Japanese prime minister, according to a new report. House Democrats.

The gifts are among more than 100 foreign gifts — worth a total of nearly $300,000 — that Trump and his family failed to report to the State Department in violation of federal law, according to the report, which cites government records and emails.

The 15-page report, the result of a year-long investigation by House Oversight Committee on Trump’s failure to disclose gifts from foreign government officials while in office, revealed that the Trump family had withheld dozens of gifts from countries that are not US allies or have a complicated relationship with Washington. This includes 16 gifts from Saudi Arabia worth more than $48,000, 17 gifts from India worth more than $17,000, and at least 5 gifts from China. According to the report, Trump reported no gifts in the last year of his presidency, while he reported some of the gifts received in previous years.

Trump repeatedly told his advisers that the gifts given to him during the presidency were his and did not belong to the federal government, former chief of staff John F. Kelly and other aides previously told The Washington Post.

Investigators continue to search for the large portrait of Trump given to him ahead of the 2020 election by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and the golf clubs worth over $7,000 which Trump received Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during visits to Trump International Golf Club and Kasumigaeski Country Club in 2017 and 2018, the report said.

Most over 100 gifts identified by the committee are now in the custody of the National Archives or the federal government, even if they have not been reported to the State Department. It’s unclear how many gifts were returned before Trump left office and after, officials say.

The incomplete accounting practices uncovered by House investigators are based on a review of presidential records, so any gifts to the Trump family that were not documented in written communications by administration officials could still be in circulation. Republicans did not appear to be participating in the investigation, which began when Democrats controlled the House.

“We were able to piece this all together through independent sources, but there could be a lot more given that none of these giveaways have been reported and we only discovered them through different types of work. and accident investigation,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a senior member of the House Oversight Committee, who declined to comment on whether the committee would make a criminal referral to the Justice Department. .

Email correspondence between Trump White House officials reviewed by The Post shows a random accounting of items given to Trump. In a single email exchange, the Office of the White House Legal Counsel provided incorrect advice to White House staff on the process for accounting for foreign gifts.

The report also raises concerns about whether the undeclared gifts may have been used by foreign governments to influence US policy positions toward those countries. A letter to the State Department de Raskin on Friday requested documents and communications related to the foreign gifts and to Trump and his family, including “any reference to the effects on U.S. foreign policy.”

Typically, the White House Gifts Unit records all domestic and foreign gifts and their appraisal received by the President and the First Family. If an official wishes to keep a gift, they have the option of paying the full value as set out in the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act. The 1966 law prohibits officials from personally keeping gifts from foreign entities worth more than $415.

Otherwise, the donation is transferred to the Archives, where it is stored for use in the presidential libraries. Gifts destined for the White House residence are returned to the Department of the Interior’s Parks Department, and gifts not sent to the Archives, or not personally retained by the President or his family, are sent to the General Services Administration. Luke Niederhelman served as director of the White House Gifts Office under Trump and did not immediately respond to request for comment.

In addition, the State Department’s Office of Protocol publishes an annual list of all gifts from a foreign government to a federal employee. The State Department revealed in 2021 that because Trump White House officials did not provide a list of foreign gifts Trump received before leaving office, the department did not have the data necessary to compile a full 2020 report.

The Post first reported last fall that investigators are seeking the National Archives’ help in locating dozens of expensive memorabilia given to Trump and his family.

Email correspondence included in the committee’s report shows that then-assistant White House counsel Scott Gast wrongly informed Molly Michael, Trump’s executive aide, who had asked about required disclosures and payments for gifts in January 2021, that “no disclosure is required for gifts that are purchased with personal funds.

“While this is accurate for domestic gifts, Mr. Gast did not specify that all foreign gifts above the minimum value must be reported, regardless of disposition,” the investigators wrote.

Gast did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The committee’s effort to find Trump’s portrait serves as a snapshot of the disorganization within the Trump administration’s gift accounting practices.

In November 2020, the US Ambassador to El Salvador emailed Trump’s son-in-law and aide to adviser Jared Kushner, Avi Berkowitz, informing him that President Nayib Bukele had delivered a painting to the residence which had to be shipped to Trump.

“President Bukele hired the same Salvadoran artist who did his portrait for the presidential house here,” Ambassador Ronald Johnson wrote in an email that included photos of him showing a thumbs-up next to the large painting. “It took the artist 6 months to complete the painting, and the attention to detail is absolutely amazing (see some close-up examples below).”

The email was forwarded directly to Kushner, who then asked his assistant Cassidy Dumbauld to “take care of this”, remarking that the painting was “very beautiful”. Dumbauld replied later that day that the painting was to be delivered to the White House. Investigators, however, state in the report that there are no records to account for the donation, and neither the National Archives nor the General Services Administration had records for the purchase of the painting.

“…despite GSA transition documents indicating that Donald Trump’s Office Correspondence Manager certified “full compliance with the final disposition of gifts” in April 2021, some records suggest the portrait may have been moved to Florida ‘as property of the former President’ in July 2021, investigators concluded.

A spokesperson for the National Archives said it cooperated with the report but declined to comment on its findings.

Ethics experts say the issues reflect a broader problem with the enforcement of the Constitution’s emoluments clause that requires the president to seek permission from Congress to accept a gift from a stranger.

“If someone accepts a gift that you’re not allowed to take under the Constitution or government ethics rules, it’s not criminal,” said Richard Painter, the chief attorney for White House Ethics for President George W. Bush. “But if someone knowingly lied on the gift disclosure forms, that’s a violation of the misrepresentation statue and should be referred to the Department of Justice.”

The committee’s findings show considerable discrepancies in the formal accounting for donations. For example, the State Department’s Federal Register listing said the Trump family received 10 gifts from Saudi Arabia in 2017, two gifts from the country in 2018, zero gifts in 2019, and one gift in 2020. But the committee identified 16 additional gifts from Saudi Arabia. Arabia that had not been reported, with a total value of more than $45,000.

Kushner, who benefited financially from the close relationship forged with the Saudis during the Trump presidency, bought and kept five gifts from the Saudis, according to GSA records obtained by the committee, including a $24,000 dagger and scabbard that given to him by Mohammad bin Salman. and two sets of swords valued at $8,800.

Raskin recently renewed a document request related to Kushner’s investment firm, which raised $2 billion from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, as part of an ongoing investigation into Kushner’s ties to the Saudi government.

A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment.

Although there is no record of Trump personally purchasing any of the foreign gifts he received, other family members legally purchased gifts. Correspondence obtained by committee investigators showed that at least one member of the Trump family sought to cover up the acquisition.

In one instance, Melania Trump sought to “remember NARA diamond earrings donated by the Czech Republic, valued at $470, but wanted to avoid public disclosure of the item,” the authors wrote. investigators. “The note read: ‘REMINDER FROM NARA (FLOTUS prefers not to disclose anything publicly [sic]PURCHASE?'”

Ivanka Trump was also showered with gifts throughout her tenure as senior adviser from her father and received items including a mother-of-pearl mosaic portrait of her from Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in 2017, and a large $2,450 gold bracelet from Indian Prime. Minister Narendra Modi in 2020.

She bought several items to keep, including a $1,200 Steiff “blonde mohair” teddy bear sporting a red and white jacket with gold trim donated by former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in 2019, according to the report.

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