Investigators Look at Fake Furs, Decorative Dagger Saudi Royals Gave Donald Trump and U.S. Officials

·4 min read
U.S. President Trump in Saudi Arabia
U.S. President Trump in Saudi Arabia

Getty

A slew of lavish items the Saudi royal family gave to President Donald Trump and his family is at the center of an investigation into how his administration handled gift exchanges with foreign leaders.

In 2017, the former president, his aides and family members arrived in the kingdom for Trump's first overseas trip as president.

There Saudi officials gave their visitors robes of white tiger and cheetah furs — which turned out to be fake — as well as expensive swords and a dagger that appeared to contain ivory, according to The New York Times, which reports that the White House held onto the items until the final full day of Trump's presidency on Jan. 19.

Various laws regulate how U.S. officials are supposed to handle and disclose gifts received from foreigners — especially those that might violate the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. President Trump in Saudi Arabia
U.S. President Trump in Saudi Arabia

Getty President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit Saudi Arabia in 2020.

In July, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took possession of three fur-lined robes and an ornamental dagger, according to spokeswoman Karen Armstrong.

"Although the robes were labeled as containing 'white tiger' and 'chitah' fur," Armstrong tells PEOPLE, "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."

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"The handle of the dagger appears to possibly contain tooth or bone of some variety, although additional laboratory analysis would be required to identify the species," Armstrong continues, adding that additional analysis hasn't been conducted yet.

U.S. President Trump in Saudi Arabia
U.S. President Trump in Saudi Arabia

Getty President Donald Trump visits Saudi Arabia in 2020.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the common diplomatic process for gifts to administration officials that contain regulated wildlife products is to accept them to avoid offending the gift-giver. However, they should then be transferred to the Service's Office of Law Enforcement to be documented and secured. These items may be used for public outreach and education.

Gifts can sometimes be received without the knowledge of the intended recipient because they're sent through embassies or other diplomatic channels.

Jared Kushner, a top adviser to President Trump and his son-in-law, reportedly received two swords and a dagger from his Saudi hosts but ended up paying $47,920 for those and other gifts years later after they were disclosed in 2021 and Trump was out of office.

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Gifts from the Saudi royal family aren't the only ones in question.

The Times reports that the State Department's inspector general is also investigating missing gift bags worth thousands of dollars meant for foreign leaders at a 2020 Group of Seven summit that was canceled.

Departing Trump officials allegedly took gift bags from the State Department as they packed up their offices in January.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

A bottle of Japanese whiskey worth $5,800 that was given to Trump's former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also still missing. His attorney, William A. Burck, told the Times that Pompeo does not recall ever receiving the bottle and does not know where it ended up.

Former Second Lady Karen Pence also kept a pair of gold-toned place card holders from the prime minister of Singapore, according to the Times report, though a Pence family attorney told the paper the gift's value of $390 was less than the allowable limit.

There's a dispute about whether additional gifts — a clutch and a framed print — should be included in the total value of items she received.

"The Department of State takes seriously its role in reporting the disposition of certain gifts received by U.S. Government employees," State Department spokesman Ned Price tells PEOPLE when asked about the investigation reported in the Times. "These gifts are the property of the American people and must be accounted for accurately. With that responsibility in mind, we conduct the necessary due diligence before filing the required reports with the Federal Register. As we noted in the most recent report, we are investigating the whereabouts of gifts that are unaccounted for and the circumstances that led to their disappearance."

The Times reports officials at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., declined to comment.

A Trump spokeswoman did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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