NEWS AND COMMENT: For me, this is a story of multiple misdeeds as I have described it. During Trump’s tenure of the presidency of the United States he visited Saudi Arabia and was given expensive gifts. The gifts were presented to him during his 2017 trip; his first overseas presidential visit. They included cheetah and tiger fur robes. As I understand it, they were given on the basis that they were genuine. The Saudi Royal family were ostensibly giving him the genuine article. That was their intent as I understand the story. If that is true they were in breach of international laws retricting trade in wildlife body parts. There are multiple rules on this affecting all countries. There are international treaties such as CITES and the US has their own Endangered Species Act.
In addition to those wildlife conservation rules there are internal rules in the US concerning gifts given to presidents which have to be disclosed and which can be kept if they are valued at no more than a few hundred dollars. In 2017 the maximum value was $390. Today, a president can accept a gift and keep it if it is valued at no more than $415.
We don’t know whether Trump realised that the big cat robes were fakes. Yes, they were fakes because they been analysed. The disclosure of these gifts were made on the last day of President Trump’s presidency. He kept quiet about it. Although he was warned that the gifts might be in violation of various laws including the US’s Endangered Species Act.
Allegedly that is why he kept quiet about it. The fact that they were fakes is a good thing but the intention was that they were genuine. They are certainly very high quality judging by the photographs. These were very expensive gifts. Clearly Trump didn’t keep them because they are now in the hands of the administration and have been tested. In fact, they were seized by the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
It’s reported that the discovery of these fake but expensive cheetah and tiger robes is an embarrassment for the Saudis and a difficulty in the Saudi-US relations. The Saudis want to give the impression they are wealthy, generous and above board by which I mean complying with the law. They were complying with the law. Perhaps, and we don’t know this, they did tell Trump that they were not the genuine article. Perhaps the reporting is a bit skimpy. I suspect that that is the truth of the matter.
It’s also reported that the State Department inspector general is looking at other gifts given to Trump’s political appointees which they kept and which were worth thousands of dollars. For example, a $6,000 Japanese whiskey given to Mike Pompeo appears to have disappeared. I guess that means it’s been drunk! Pompeo was given the bottle by the Japanese government on June 24, 2019 according to a State Department filing.
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