It must have felt like Christmas morning to the Trump family and members of his administration when they walked into the White House. Donald is perhaps the greatest grifter in the history of our government, so it would be no surprise if his appointees stole something expensive from the State Department Gift Vault.
As we speak, the Office of the Inspector General (IG) is in the process of investigating whether these appointees decided to help themselves to the presents from the gift vault right before Trump left town. Americans paid for these gifts meant for foreign leaders. They had been planned for the Group of Seven summit at Camp David in 2020, but of course, the COVID pandemic interrupted those plans. The price of the MIA gifts was “significant,” according to a State Department official familiar with the issue, NBC News reported
It appeared that the Trump administration had no respect for a well-establish protocol, The New York Times reported:
‘Gift exchanges between U.S. and foreign leaders, a highly regulated process, devolved into sometimes risible shambles during the Trump administration.’
The New York Times was the first to catch wind of the news that gift bags for foreign leaders were missing. The bags included:
‘[L]eather portfolios, pewter trays, and marble boxes with the presidential seal or Donald and Melania Trump’s signatures.’
The Times discovered this information by sourcing “public documents from the federal government, interviews with current and former officials, and statements from several departments and agencies for its story.”
The inspector general noticed that a whiskey bottle worth $5800 that the Japanese gave to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had disappeared, too, NBC News reported. It had been given to Pompeo but somehow never recorded:
‘[It was] in June 2019, presumably when he visited the country that month for a Group of 20 summit that was also attended by President Donald Trump. But unlike other gifts, the department said there was no record of what had become of the bottle.’
Pompeo said on Fox News in early 2021:
‘It never got to me. I have no idea how the State Department lost this thing — although I saw enormous incompetence at the State Department during my time there.’
The ex-president exchanged gifts with the Pope as is customary. We can just hear Trump asking, “How much do you think I can get for this on e-Bay?” He gave North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un a signed CD of Elton John’s Rocket Man. No word on whether that was an Elton John or Donald Trump signature.
On Trump’s first trip abroad, an unusual choice of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi royal family buried him and his entourage in lavish gifts:
‘[D]ozens of presents, including three robes made with white tiger and cheetah fur, and a dagger with a handle that appeared to be ivory.’
A White House attorney reported that Americans cannot own furs and ivory that violated Endangered Species Act. That did not stop Trump’s people from enjoying those Saudi gifts. They forgot to record them as gifts from a foreign government, and the Trump administration hung onto them at least for several years.
Trump’s favorite dictator Russian President Vladimir Putin was considering “gifting” our president with Edward Snowden. But then he settled on a FIFA World Cup soccer ball.
An official in the current State Department said:
‘[The State Department] takes seriously its role in reporting the disposition of certain gifts received by U.S. government employees. These gifts are the property of the American people and must be accounted for accurately.’
The way the State Department’s office is required to receive gifts begins with recording the gifts received by U.S. officials and then following their disposition. The normal protocol included three options: returning gifts above a modest amount, giving them to the National Archives or another appropriate government entity, or purchasing them from the Treasury Department at their current value.
The ex-president also received many expensive gifts while he was serving as president, the State Department said:
‘[These included] a 9mm pistol from the Czech Republic and a hardwood bench carved to resemble a jaguar from Brazil. They were sent to the National Archives.’
On the last full day that the ex-president was in office, staff handed the Saudi gifts over to the wrong agency, the General Services Administration (GSA) instead of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which seized the gifts this summer. Ironically, the gifts were fakes.
At this time, the State Department has been trying to find “the whereabouts of gifts that are unaccounted for and the circumstances that led to their disappearance.” Since this is an ongoing investigation, the inspector general’s office declined to comment.
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