Federal officials cannot find two gifts received by President Donald Trump and his family from foreign nations, including a life-size painting of Trump from the president of El Salvador and golf clubs from the Japanese prime minister, according to a new report from House Democrats.
The 15-page report, a result of a year-long investigation by the House Oversight Committee into Trump’s failure to disclose gifts from foreign government officials while in office, revealed that the Trump family did not disclose dozens of gifts from countries that are not U.S. allies or have a complicated relationship with Washington. That includes 16 gifts from Saudi Arabia worth more than $48,000, 17 gifts from India worth more than $17,000, and at least five gifts from China. Trump reported zero gifts entirely the final year of his presidency, according to the report, while he reported some of the gifts received in previous years.
Trump repeatedly told advisers that gifts given to him during the presidency were his and did not belong to the federal government, former chief of staff John F. Kelly and other aides have previously told The Washington Post.
Investigators are continuing to search for the large portrait of Trump given to him ahead of the 2020 election by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and the golf clubs worth more than $7,000 that Trump received from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during visits to the Trump International Golf Club and Kasumigaseki Country Club in 2017 and 2018, the report says.
Most of the more than 100 gifts identified by the committee are in the custody of the National Archives or the federal government, even if they had not been reported to the State Department. It is unclear how many of the gifts were returned before Trump left office and after, officials say.
The incomplete accounting practices revealed by House investigators is based on a review of presidential records, so any gifts to the Trump family that were not memorialized in written communications by administration officials could still be outstanding. Republicans did not appear to participate in the investigation, which began while Democrats controlled the House.
“We’ve been able to piece all of this together through independent sources, but there could be a lot more given that none of these gifts have been reported and we’ve only found out about them through different kinds of investigative work and accidents,” said Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, who declined to comment on whether the committee will make a criminal referral to the Justice Department.
Email correspondence between Trump White House officials reviewed by The Post show a haphazard accounting of items given to Trump. In one email exchange, the White House Counsel’s Office provided incorrect guidance to White House staff members on the process of accounting for foreign gifts.
The report also raises concerns about whether the unreported gifts may have been used by foreign governments to influence U.S. policy positions toward those countries. A letter issued to the State Department from Raskin on Friday requested documents and communications related to foreign gifts and Trump and his family, including “any references to effects on U.S. foreign policy.”
Without addressing the outstanding items, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung issued a statement attacking Raskin and the National Archives, saying the agency knows “many items were received either before or after the administration.”
Typically, the White House Gifts Unit records all domestic and foreign gifts and their valuation that are received by the president and first family. If an official wishes to retain a gift, they have the option of paying full value, as outlined under the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act. The 1966 law prohibits officials from personally keeping gifts from foreign entities worth more than $415.
Otherwise, the gift is transferred to the Archives, where it is stored for use in presidential libraries. Gifts meant for the White House residence are referred to the Interior Department’s park service, and gifts that are not sent to the Archives, or not personally retained by the president or his family, are sent to the General Services Administration. Luke Niederhelman, who served as the director of the White House gift office under Trump, did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Separately, the Office of Protocol in the State Department publishes an annual list of all gifts from a foreign government to a federal employee. The State Department disclosed in 2021 that because Trump White House officials failed to provide a list of foreign gifts Trump received before leaving office, the department did not have the necessary data to compile a complete 2020 report.
The Post first reported in the fall that investigators were seeking help from the National Archives to locate dozens of pricey mementos gifted to Trump and his family.
Email correspondence included in the committee’s report shows then-Deputy White House Counsel Scott Gast incorrectly advising Molly Michael, Trump’s executive assistant, who had asked about required disclosures and payments for gifts in January 2021, that “no disclosure is required for any gifts that are purchased with personal funds.”
“While this is accurate for domestic gifts, Mr. Gast failed to specify that all foreign gifts over the minimal value are required to be reported, regardless of disposition,” investigators wrote.
Gast did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The committee’s effort to track down the portrait of Trump serves as a snapshot of the disorganization within the Trump administration’s gift accounting practices.
In November 2020, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador emailed Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner’s assistant, Avi Berkowitz, to notify him that Bukele had delivered a painting to the residence that needed to be shipped to Trump.
“President Bukele contracted the same Salvadoran artist who completed his portrait for the Presidential House here,” Ambassador Ronald Johnson wrote in an email that featured photos of himself flashing a thumbs up next to the large painting. “It took the artist 6-months to complete the painting, and the attention to detail is absolutely amazing (see some close-up examples below).”
The email was forwarded directly to Kushner, who then asked his assistant Cassidy Dumbauld to “take care of this,” remarking that the painting was “very nice.” Dumbauld replied later that day that the painting was set to be delivered to the White House. Investigators, however, state in the report that there are no records to account for the gift, and neither the National Archives nor the General Services Administration had records for the purchase of the painting.
“[D]espite GSA transition documents indicating that the Director of Correspondence for the Office of Donald 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,” investigators concluded.
A spokesperson for the National Archives said they cooperated with the report but declined to comment on its findings.
Ethics experts say the issues reflect a broader problem with enforcement of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which requires the president to ask Congress for permission to accept a gift from a foreigner.
“If someone accepts a gift you are not allowed to take under the Constitution or government ethics rules, it’s not criminal,” said Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. “But if anyone knowingly lied on the gift disclosure forms, that’s a violation of the false statements statute and that should be referred to the Department of Justice.”
The committee’s findings show extensive discrepancies in the formal accounting of gifts. For example, the State Department’s Federal Register Listing reported that the Trump family received 10 gifts from Saudi Arabia in 2017, two gifts from the country in 2018, zero gifts in 2019 and one gift in 2020. But the committee identified 16 additional gifts from Saudi Arabia that had not been reported, worth more than $45,000 in total.
Kushner, who has financially profited from the close relationship forged with the Saudis during the Trump presidency, purchased and retained five unreported gifts from the Saudis, according to GSA records obtained by the committee, including a $24,000 dagger and sheath given to him by Mohammed bin Salman and two sword sets worth $8,800.
Raskin recently renewed a document request related to Kushner’s investment firm, which raised $2 billion from the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, as part of an ongoing investigation into Kushner’s ties to the Saudi government.
A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment.
While there are no records of Trump personally purchasing any of the foreign gifts he received, other family members did legally purchase gifts. Correspondence obtained by committee investigators showed that at least one Trump family member sought to shroud the acquisition.
In one instance, Melania Trump sought to “recall from NARA diamond earrings given by the Czech Republic, valued at $470, but wanted to avoid public disclosure of the item,” investigators wrote. “The note stated: “RECALL FROM NARA (FLOTUS prefers not to disclose any items publically [sic], PURCHASE?'”
Ivanka Trump was also showered with gifts throughout her time as a senior adviser to her father and received items including a mosaic portrait of her in mother-of-pearl from Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in 2017 and a $2,450 chunky gold bracelet from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2020. Kushner, Ivanka Trump and their children received 33 unreported gifts in total, worth over $80,000, House investigators found.
Ivanka Trump purchased several items to keep, including a $1,200 Steiff “blond mohair” teddy bear sporting a red and white jacket with gold trim gifted by former Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz in 2019, according to the report.