still have the receipt?
Former President Donald Trump and co. were reportedly showered with gifts during his first presidential trip abroad, a visit to the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Among the Saudi bounty, reports The New York Times, were "three robes made with white tiger and cheetah fur, and a dagger with a handle that appeared to be ivory."
The Trump administration failed to disclose the diplomatic gifts in a timely fashion as received from a foreign government, the Times reports. Trump's team also reportedly held onto them against the recommendation of a White House lawyer, who thought they likely violated the Endangered Species Act — but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this summer discovered the furs were actually fake.
"Wildlife inspectors and special agents determined the linings of the robes were dyed to mimic tiger and cheetah patterns and were not comprised of protected species," said Tyler Cherry, a spokesman for the Interior Department.
Whether or not the Saudis knew the furs were fraudluent is unclear — but still, Bruce Riedel, an expert on Saudi-U.S. relations, called the gifts "highly embarrassing," per the Times. "The two most important things for them is to look like they're aboveboard world actors, and are rich and show their wealth," he said.
The Times discovered the robes, which were among over 80 other gifts from the 2017 visit, during a "larger investigation" into the Trump administration's gift exchange practices, writes Insider. And the messiness of the Saudi incident is just one example among others, the Times story says, of how the "highly regulated" process of diplomatic gift giving "devolved into sometimes risible shambles during the Trump administration."
"Whether this was indifference, sloppiness or the Great Train Robbery, it shows such a cavalier attitude to the law and the regular process of government," Stanley M. Brand, an ethics expert, told The New York Times.