The State Department inspector general is investigating whether Trump administration officials helped themselves to expensive Trump-branded gifts meant for foreign dignitaries, NBC News confirmed Tuesday.
The Office of the Inspector General is investigating whether political appointees of then-President Donald Trump removed the taxpayer-funded presents from the State Department gift vault in January and took them home, a department official with knowledge of the events said. The official said the dollar value of the missing gifts is “significant.”
The latest probe into missing gifts was first reported by The New York Times. The paper identified the missing items as gift bags meant for foreign leaders at a Group of Seven summit that was supposed to be held at Camp David in 2020 but was canceled because of the pandemic. The gift bags included leather portfolios, pewter trays and marble boxes with the presidential seal or Donald and Melania Trump’s signatures, the Times reported. The newspaper cited public documents from the federal government, interviews with current and former officials, and statements from several departments and agencies for its story.
The inspector general’s broad look at missing gifts during the Trump administration also includes a whiskey bottle worth $5,800 that was given to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by the Japanese but then disappeared.
Pompeo said he never received it. “It never got to me,” he told Fox News this year. “I have no idea how the State Department lost this thing — although I saw enormous incompetence at the State Department during my time there.”
The inspector general’s office declined to comment. Trump’s office also did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment. A spokeswoman for Trump did not return several messages from The New York Times seeking a response, the newspaper said.
A State official said the department “takes seriously its role in reporting the disposition of certain gifts received by U.S. government employees. These gifts are the property of the American people and must be accounted for accurately.”
The official said the department is searching for “the whereabouts of gifts that are unaccounted for and the circumstances that led to their disappearance.”
The State Department’s office of protocol is required to record gifts given to U.S. officials and keep track of their disposition. Recipients have the option of turning gifts of a certain value over to the National Archives or another government entity or purchasing them for personal use by reimbursing the Treasury Department for their value.
Trump received a number of expensive gifts in office, the State Department has said, including a 9 mm pistol from the Czech Republic and a hardwood bench carved to resemble a jaguar from Brazil. They were sent to the National Archives.
Dareh Gregorian is a politics reporter for NBC News.