The State Department helped to arrange Don Jr.’s Mongolian sheep hunt. But not his meeting with the Mongolian president.
New records from the State Department obtained by CREW confirm that Donald Trump Jr. met with the Mongolian president without any American government officials present during his “personal” 2019 hunting trip to the country, despite the State Department’s heavy involvement in other parts of his trip. The August 2019 trip cost taxpayers thousands more than previously known, and potentially brought the total cost to taxpayers to more than $115,000.
It is far from ordinary to have the child of a sitting American president meet with a foreign leader without any American officials there. These types of meetings are generally closely monitored diplomatic affairs. While the documents CREW obtained through a FOIA lawsuit confirm the existence of a meeting between Trump Jr. and the Mongolian president, they don’t offer any further clue into what the two discussed.
“The USSS advised Donald Trump Jr. is scheduled to have dinner with the Mongolia [sic] President and Prime Minister at Ikh Tenger at 1700 today,” reads an email to a foreign service officer in the Mongolian embassy. “This was scheduled late yesterday afternoon. This event was set up directly between Tump [sic] Jr. and President Battulga. We have not received any request for additional support beyond what we are currently providing and I wanted to share for your situational awareness.”
The US Ambassador to Mongolia followed up: “I just spent the evening with the Prime Minister, who arrived at the event we attended at about 17:20, and didn’t leave till about 20:30. So he presumably was not part of the Trump dinner with President Battulga. I didn’t raise the subject with him.”
No one in the Trump administration has ever publicly commented on the details of the meeting, something normally that would be a serious diplomatic event. Additionally, the lack of American government officials at the meeting likely means that there are no federal records detailing what the two discussed. Given the Trump administration’s history of problematic contact with foreign governments, this raises some serious red flags.
While Trump Jr. kept the State Department and administration out of this particular event, the agency was intimately involved in planning other parts of Trump Jr.’s controversial trip.
Before heading to Mongolia, Trump Jr. visited Indonesia to attend a pre-launch event for Trump Organization developments in Bali and Lido. A month before the event, a foreign service officer asked a favor from the Secret Service: “If there is any way to suss out what Mr. Trump Jr. will be doing in Jakarta, we would be most appreciative – Amb Donovan is willing to host a dinner for him, if desired.”
Donald Trump Jr. was never a member of his father’s administration, but the email indicates that he was receiving special treatment from the government and possibly meeting with another foreign government official during what was, purportedly, a business trip. The special treatment didn’t stop there.
“More details of the Aug VIP visit to Bali,” reads one email. “He will fly to Ulaanbaatar directly from Bali. do [sic] you know if it is possible to import his rifle into Indonesia?”
“It would be very difficult to bring the firearm,” a foreign officer responded. “If there are ways to avoid it that would be easiest for all.” Another put it more bluntly: “Can you believe this? I am being asked to help Don Jr who is traveling with a hunting rifle. He’s making a stop in Bali on his way to Mongolia to kill some defenseless animal.” “Unbelievable,” another responded. “I think the answer is ‘NO,’ correct?” “It will be. HAHAHA”
But the answer was not “NO.” Despite the logistical difficulties, officials worked out a plan to get Don Jr.’s hunting rifle into the country, noting that “this procedure for importation of a personal firearm has not been attempted before by the Embassy. We have only dealt with official requests for security personnel traveling for protection duties.”
Text messages included in the records indicate that a person who appears to be a State official was in touch with Jandos Kontorbai Ahat, a member of the Mongolian president’s political party whose company sponsored Trump Jr.’s trip, and Kaan Karakaya, a Turkish hunting guide who joined Trump Jr. for his hunt. While no officials are named in the messages, at least one name is redacted. That would appear to be a State employee, since the messages were found by searching the Department’s communications. Many of the texts discussed how to get Trump Jr. a “very political” hunting permit he needed to hunt the endangered sheep. “We only have one hunting permit for elk. We need copies of the other permits,” one text reads. “Other permits will be on our guest name,” Karakaya responded. “We need copies,” the first person insisted. “They will be issued only day before as we want to keep it quite [sic],” replied Karakaya.
This all came with a hefty price tag: The State Department’s involvement cost taxpayers at least $11,560 on top of more than $75,000 in Secret Service fees. The State Department records also include new, higher Secret Service costs which likely covered work carried out by an advance team, and a proposal for a White House doctor and additional government personnel to accompany Don Jr. on his hunt that estimated a cost of $24,000. While it appears that the White House doctor did go on the trip, whether or not that was the final cost is unclear. All together, the total cost of the trip to taxpayers could be as high as $117,053.
The new emails prove that Trump Jr.’s trip was far from a purely personal expedition, as his spokesman claimed. They also cast doubt on another claim that “no government officials from either country organized the trip” and that the “permits were appropriately obtained.”
More than anything, they exemplify hallmarks of Trump-era corruption: the mix of personal and government business, abuse of government resources and special treatment for Trump’s family members. And yet again, they leave us wondering why Donald Trump Jr. is getting away with such obvious corruption.