Lawmakers Investigating What Happened To Foreign Gifts Given To Trump Administration


Democratic lawmakers have opened a probe into whether the Trump Administration properly tracked the gifts it received from foreign governments, following reports that Trump-era gift records are incomplete and at least two pricey foreign gifts—including a whiskey bottle worth over $5,000—are unaccounted for.

Key Facts

In a letter released Tuesday, House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) asked the National Records and Archives Administration to hand over any communications on foreign gifts from the last year of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Maloney noted the State Department never got a list of the gifts received in 2020 by the Trump-era White House, even though foreign countries like India and Switzerland appeared to give presents to Trump that year, according to the New York Times.

She also pointed to public State Department documents that show spotty recordkeeping on the sources and recipients of many Trump-era foreign gifts, and noted an unnamed State Department employee told the Oversight Committee last month the federal government’s vault for gifts was in “complete disarray” by the time Trump left office.

Maloney argued incomplete and missing records on the plush gifts “raise concerns about the potential for undue influence over former President Trump by foreign governments,” and she said the probe may point to violations of the emoluments clause, a section of the Constitution that bars presidents from accepting foreign gifts.

Maloney said the investigation could also help lawmakers figure out whether stronger laws on recordkeeping are needed.

Forbes has reached out to Trump and the National Archives for comment.

Key Background

Foreign governments regularly exchange gifts with American diplomats and officials, but when a gift’s price tag exceeds $415, they’re usually considered to be the property of the U.S. government, not the staffers who received them. The State Department is required to publish an annual list of all foreign gifts, but after Trump left office last year, large gaps emerged. The Saudi government gave dozens of opulent gifts to the Trump Administration during a 2017 state visit to Riyadh, and several of the swords, daggers and furs presented to Trump officials didn’t make it onto the State Department’s log, the Times reported last year. Plus, the State Department disclosed last August it isn’t sure what happened to a $5,800 bottle of whiskey given to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by the government of Japan in 2019 (a lawyer for Pompeo told Forbes last year his client doesn’t remember receiving the whiskey bottle and isn’t sure of its whereabouts). In a November report, the State Department’s Office of Inspector General said it couldn’t track down the whiskey bottle or a $560 commemorative gold coin, a mystery it blamed partly on shoddy recordkeeping and poor security in the gift vault.

Surprising Fact

For much of his presidency, Trump grappled with allegations he and his family business had financially benefited from foreign governments, bringing the emoluments clause—a previously obscure corner of constitutional law—into public discussion. Trump faced at least three lawsuits for allegedly profiting off foreign officials who visited the Trump Organization’s D.C. hotel and otherwise did business with his company. However, courts haven’t definitively ruled on the issue: The Supreme Court tossed out two of the emoluments lawsuits after Trump left office, arguing they were moot because his term had ended, and a third suit from congressional Democrats was dismissed by an appeals court due to a lack of standing in 2020.


Trump has faced scrutiny for his handling of government property in the past. Earlier this year, the National Archives said it received 15 boxes of Trump-era federal records that should’ve been transferred to the government but were instead held at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

Further Reading

Missing $5,800 Bottle Of Japanese Whiskey Given To Trump Administration Has State Dept. On The Rocks (Forbes)

State Dept. Report on Missing Gifts Finds Poor Oversight (New York Times)

Trump Officials Failed to Provide Accounting of Foreign Gifts (New York Times)