Update: CREW has appealed the initial determination by the U.S. Secret Service. On March 5, 2020, the Secret Service provided CREW with its final response to the request, consisting of two pages of responsive records. The paucity of documents suggests the Secret Service failed to conduct an adequate search reasonably designed to uncover all responsive documents.Read the appeal here.
CREW requested records from the Department of Homeland Security, State Department, and Department of the Interior on Donald Trump Jr.’s hunting trip in Mongolia where he killed an argali sheep, which are endangered. Specifically, CREW is interested in the trip’s cost to taxpayers, communications between Don Jr. and Mongolian officials, and whether or not there is documentation of Don Jr. obtaining licenses for importing the sheep.
On December 11, 2019, ProPublica reported that President Trump’s son, Don Jr., took a trip to Mongolia to hunt argali sheep. He was joined by five Secret Service bodyguards, the defense attache from the US embassy in Mongolia, and Republican political donor Kevin Small who also appears to have killed an argali sheep. After the hunt, Don Jr. met privately with Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga. The Mongolian government retroactively gave Don Jr. a permit to kill the sheep.
Prior to the trip, there was a White House meeting between US and Mongolian officials, and a visit to Mar-a-Lago by the Mongolian ambassador and foreign minister. Additionally, Small, the CEO of KS Industries LP, an oil and gas company, donated over $95,000 to Republican groups in the months before the trip.
The requested records from DHS would lay out the cost to taxpayers of Don Jr.’s trip. While there is nothing wrong with the son of a president receiving protection from the Secret Service, it is fair for taxpayers to have questions about the cost for certain activities, especially potentially dangerous ones that involve trophy hunting in foreign countries.
Further, the requested records from State Department would demonstrate the extent of communications between Mongolian officials and Don Jr. The public deserves to know whether Mongolia attempted to curry favor with the president’s family or if Don Jr. interacted with Battulga or Mongolian officials on a political level. Records mentioning Small would also indicate if a Republican donor was able to buy political access, which raises questions of transparency and undue industry influence.
Finally, requested records from DOI would shed light on whether or not Don Jr. received any special treatment on the process of importing the sheep carcass into the US. Don Jr. has previously discussed his desire to change the rules on trophy hunting early on in the Trump campaign. The public deserves to know if special treatment was given to Don Jr. and if the US government has advanced the trophy hunting hobby of the politically connected.