Source: CNN

Donald Trump and his family failed to report nearly $300,000-worth of gifts they received from foreign governments between 2017 and 2020, including a “larger-than-life-sized painting” of the former president that may currently reside at his Mar-a-Lago resort, according to a new report by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee and supporting documents obtained by CNN.

Over 100 gifts from foreign officials, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, with a total value of over a quarter of a million dollars, were never disclosed to the State Department by Trump and members of his immediate family as required by law, the report says.

House Democrats say the discovery of these unreported foreign gifts, including 17 from Saudi Arabia with a total value of more than $48,000, “raises significant questions about why former President Trump failed to disclose these gifts to the public” and whether they may have been used to influence US policy under the previous administration. The report does not provide any specific evidence that US policy was influenced by the gifts.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, told CNN that the fact these items were never reported and some are now missing “suggests serious violations of the foreign Emoluments Clause.”

“That part of the Constitution is America’s original anti-bribery law,” Raskin said, noting lawmakers could make criminal referrals if there is evidence to warrant doing so.

“But in truth, Congress on a bipartisan basis needs to legislate to build meaningful enforcement mechanisms into the Emoluments Clause,” he added. “This will force us to recover the wisdom of the framers who were emphatic that people in public office, not be on the take from foreign governments.”

House Democrats have sought to point out Trump’s foreign engagements as their Republican colleagues and the Oversight Committee’s new GOP chairman, Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, are ramping up their own investigation into foreign dealings by President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

Last year, the State Department revealed it could not fully account for the foreign gifts Trump officials received during the president’s last year in office, but the interim report released Friday cites “new information obtained by the committee {that} reveals that the failures to disclose gifts from foreign governments were much broader than previously known and extended throughout the Trump Administration.”

“Internal White House records obtained by the Committee indicate that the listings provided by the White House to the Office of the Chief of Protocol failed to include all the foreign gifts received by former President Trump and the First Family not only in 2020, but throughout the Trump Administration,” the report notes.

“In total, records indicate that former President Trump and the First Family received 117 unreported foreign gifts, valued at roughly $291,000,” the interim report says. The report zeroes in on the undisclosed gifts from Saudi Arabia, Japan, India and China.

“In a legal sense, of course, it doesn’t make any difference, whether they were just completely reckless or they deliberately decided to thumb their nose at the law and the Constitution, but morally, we can safely say that this is precisely the kind of petty minutia that Donald Trump loves to obsess about,” Raskin told CNN.

Trump alone failed to report more than 50 foreign gifts – with a total estimated value of more than $150,000 – during his time in office, according to House Democrats. In terms of what foreign gifts had been shared with the Department of State, Trump disclosed 36 in 2017, 17 in 2018, 23 in 2019 and zero in 2020.

The Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act prohibits a president and federal officials from keeping foreign gifts that exceed the minimal value, which is currently set at $415. The law also put a system in place for how information about foreign gifts gets publicly disclosed and allows recipients of items valued over the set dollar amount have the option of purchasing and retaining them.

Some of the gifts Trump received were valued in the tens of thousands of dollars, including an $12,000 Uzbek silk carpet and a $35,000 dagger from the Emir of Qatar, the report adds.

Some of the items remain unaccounted for, including a “larger-than-life-sized painting” of Trump that was commissioned by the leader of El Salvador and delivered as a gift just before the 2020 election.

The committee obtained internal White House communications including correspondence about shipping the painting from the US Embassy in El Salvador to the US but found there are “no records of the painting’s disposition.”

“NARA had no records of this painting and GSA [General Services Administration] also had no records for the purchase of this gift,” the report says.

“However, despite GSA transition documents indicating that the Director of Correspondence for the Office of Donald J. Trump certified ‘full compliance with the final disposition of gifts’ in April 2021, certain records suggest the portrait may have been moved to Florida as ‘property of the former President’ in July 2021,” it adds.

Email exchanges that include photos of the US Ambassador to El Salvador standing next to the larger-than-life-sized portrait of Trump indicate that staff was arranging for the State Department to help transfer the gift from the ambassador’s residence to the White House.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner forwarded the ambassador’s initial email about the painting to White House staff, writing, “can we take care of this—very nice” to which a former Trump White House staffer replied, “yes, it got forwarded to me already and I am getting delivered to the WH!”

The report lists another item that committee investigators were unable track down despite reviewing data from the White House, NARA and GSA – a gift Kushner received from Egypt.

The White House Gift Office under the Trump administration requested the National Archives transfer a number of gifts from its custody back to the White House, which included this gift to Kushner. But there are no records that pinpoint where this gift, a box decorated in silver patterns with an estimated value of $450, is located.

There is also no evidence to suggest the box is currently in Kushner’s possession.

The panel also found that Kushner, his wife Ivanka Trump and their children together, received 33 unreported gifts, totaling nearly $82,000.

“The Committee identified 13 additional unreported foreign gifts addressed to both former President Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump, totaling more than $22,000 in estimated value,” according to the report.

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