The committee says it has received information from the State Department that “indicates the Trump administration ‘did not prioritize this obligation’ and failed to comply with the law that governs foreign gift reporting during President Trump’s final year in office,” the letter states.
“As a result, the foreign sources and monetary value of gifts President Trump received remain unknown,” it adds. “The Department of State also stated that it was unable to determine the identities of some government officials who received foreign gifts during the Trump Administration, as well as the sources of those foreign gifts.”
The Oversight Committee is now requesting information from the National Archives about the foreign gifts that Trump and members of his family received during the former President’s term.
The investigation is yet another effort by the Democrats to use their congressional authority to probe potential violations of federal records and ethics laws under the Trump administration.
The revelations about the unaccounted-for gifts “raise concerns about the potential for undue influence over former President Trump by foreign governments, which may have put the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States at risk, and about possible violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from obtaining benefits from foreign entities while in office,” the committee’s letter states.
“Public reporting indicates that President Trump accepted multiple gifts from foreign sources in 2020, yet these gifts do not appear on the Department of State’s public list as required by law,” the letter says.
A lawyer for former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a representative for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.
The committee has asked the National Archives to provide all applicable documents and communications about the gifts that Trump and his family members received from January 2020 through January 2021 by June 20.
This challenge of accounting for the gifts is particularly pronounced for the year 2020 where the State Department’s protocol office did not get a full list of the foreign gifts that the White House received, which is typical procedure.
The letter also notes that “the Office of the Chief of Protocol failed to request a listing of foreign gifts received in 2020 from the White House.”
“For example, during President Trump’s visit to India in February 2020, he received a bust of Mahatma Gandhi, a marble replica of Gandhi’s ‘Three Monkeys’ statue, and a spinning wheel, among other gifts,” the letter says.
The State Department has been trying to track down the missing information, but it does not have access to all the necessary records, according to the letter, signed by chairwoman Carolyn Maloney.
According to a Senior State Department official, State has done all the work that they can, tried to identify issues so this complication does not happen again and shared their findings with the Hill.
The letter explains, citing an explanation given by State Department, that the National Archives and the General Services Administration are able to access material from the Executive Office of the President and Vice President that the State Department cannot, which could provide answers about missing gifts.
Those laws, including those that place limitations on what foreign gifts US officials are able to accept, are put in place to ensure members of an outgoing administration are not inappropriately influenced by other governments either during their time in office or after they leave.
A US official cannot legally accept a personal gift from a foreign source of more than $415, the committee notes.
The General Services Administration (GSA) collects the foreign gifts to a president or a president’s family members who work for the US government and the State Department is required to publish comprehensive list of gifts from foreign governments to government employees and their families, including the president and vice president, every year.
But the State Department officials said they were unable to provide a full listing for 2020, when Trump was still in office, because the department did not gather all of the necessary information from the White House about the gifts. By law the White House is supposed to share that information with the State Department, along with the value of each gift as apprised by the White House gifts office, but they did not share that information in 2020.
State Department officials also told the Oversight Committee that they also still cannot fully account for the foreign gifts the Trump administration received during the former President’s final year in office, in part because of problems during the transition and issues of record-keeping during the Trump administration.
According to a top State Department official who briefed the committee last month and public reporting, Trump officials, including members of the former President’s family, maintained possession of items each valued in the tens of thousands of dollars range — raising concerns that there are potentially more items missing that are worth just as much, if not more. Other gifts, such as a rare whiskey valued at $5,800 that was gifted to then-Secretary of State Pompeo, went missing, according to the State Department.
Traditionally the gifts a president receives on a foreign trip and the gifts for the secretary of state are eventually given to the State Department to be storage in a gift vault before the gifts go to GSA if they are worth over $415. But another complexity is that State Department officials told the congressional committee that the Trump administration’s accounting of the “vault” was left in “complete disarray.