The US Department of State is trying to find out where the bottle of whiskey worth 5800 dollars (about 4900 euros) that Japan gave to the ministry in 2019 has gone. This is apparent from an overview of the ministerial protocol bureau, made public on Wednesday. The ministry was headed by Republican Mike Pompeo at the time.
It is unclear whether the then foreign minister personally received the Japanese whiskey. The government of Japan donated the bottle to senior officials of the United States Department on June 24, 2019. Pompeo was traveling in Saudi Arabia at the time, reports The New York Times.
The former minister let it be known through his lawyer William A. Burck that he could not remember receiving the bottle of whiskey and also does not know what happened to it. Pompeo also stated that he was not aware of an investigation into the whereabouts of the gift, according to his lawyer.
The list also states that Matt Pottinger, then deputy national security adviser to the United States and senior director for Asia, received a bottle of Japanese whiskey worth $8374 (about $7,000) from Yoshihide Suga in May 2019. then chief of staff and now prime minister of Japan. The review cites as justification for accepting both whiskey gifts from Japan that “non-acceptance would embarrass the giver.”
According to the British newspaper, the overview shows The Guardian also that Pompeo received two carpets with a total value of 19,400 dollars (16,400 euros) from the president of Kazakhstan and the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates.
U.S. officials are allowed to keep official gifts as long as they don’t cost more than $390. Gifts with a value above that they have to buy themselves. According to the Bureau protocol note, the bottle was valued at $5800. The bureau chief took the unusual step of noting in the statement that the whiskey’s whereabouts are “unknown.” A footnote also reads: “The Ministry is investigating the matter.” Similar reports from the past two decades make no mention of similar studies, reports The New York Times.
Former President Donald Trump and his wife Melania received gifts worth more than $120,000 ($101,000) from foreign leaders in 2019. At least three countries – Australia, Egypt and Vietnam – presented the former president with a self-portrait. These portraits had a combined value of more than $10,000 (8,500 euros). All gifts, including the portraits, have been transferred to the National Archives. Civil servants have the option of keeping a gift they have received, but that is only possible if they pay for it.
Trump administration officials routinely ignored guidelines on day-to-day government issues, such as filing and ethics, and paperwork submitted for gifts was often incomplete, according to The New York Times.
Under the Constitution, it is illegal for a U.S. official to accept a gift from a foreign government, and gifts are considered property of the U.S. government. The founders include the measure to prevent foreign governments from gaining undue influence over US officials. Any officers caught accepting such gifts could face civil penalties, or impeachment if still in office.
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