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Businessinsider.co.za | Records of Foreign Gifts Given to Trump and Pence in 2020 Are Missing, US State Department Says

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Former President Donald Trump, pictured with his wife Melania and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad on February 24, 2020.

Mandel Ngan/ AFP via Getty Images

The Trump White House did not provide information about foreign gifts received in 2020, the US State Department said.The department said it could not compile a complete list of foreign gifts because of the missing data.The Trump administration has a history of flouting rules about gifts from foreign governments.For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The Trump administration did not provide information about gifts from foreign governments in 2020 received by former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, and other White House officials, the State Department said on Friday.

As a result, the department said it could not compile a complete and accurate accounting of gifts received by Trump, his family, and other officials during his final year in office.

Under American federal law, government employees are required to disclose any gifts from foreign governments with a value of over $415 to prevent bribery and undue influence.

The Trump administration’s failure to provide the information is the latest example of its tendency to flout rules and norms.

“It’s flagrant, and it looks terrible,” Richard W. Painter, the former top ethics lawyer for George W. Bush’s administration, told The New York Times. “Either it was really stupid or really corrupt.”

Although foreign trips were limited in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the paper noted that Trump visited Switzerland and India, where he received gifts including a bust of Gandhi, a marble sculpture of Gandhi’s famous “three monkeys” metaphor, and a spinning wheel.

The White House was also visited by foreign leaders from at least a dozen countries.

The State Department’s Office of Protocol made the revelation about the missing data in the footnotes of a partial list of gifts received by US officials in 2020, published on Friday. While run by a Trump appointee, the department said its Office of the Chief of Protocol did not submit the request for data, and the White House did not provide it.

The State Department said it has since attempted to collect the missing information from current authoritative sources but was told that “potentially relevant records” are not available because of “access rules for retired records.”

It also noted that there had generally been a “lack of adequate record-keeping pertaining to diplomatic gifts” during Trump’s time in office.

Ethics expert Richard W. Painter told The New York Times that by failing to disclose the gifts, the Trump White House violated the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution, which makes it illegal to take gifts from foreigners without permission from Congress. 

However, the clause has no criminal or civil penalties, which he said makes it extremely difficult to hold former officials accountable.

Trump officials had a history of poor record-keeping. 

Federal authorities are investigating whether Trump aides improperly removed 15 boxes of classified documents and gifts from the White House to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

During his chaotic move out of the White House, Trump’s aides reportedly worried about official gifts given to Trump in office inadvertently being mixed in with his personal belongings.

It was also previously revealed that dozens of items went missing from the State Department’s gift vault during the transition from the Trump to Biden administrations, including a $5,800 bottle of whisky given to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by the Japanese government.

Trump officials also kept robes made of tiger and cheetah fur and an ivory dagger gifted by the Saudi royal family, despite a White House lawyer determining that the items most likely violated the Endangered Species Act. The furs were fake, it was eventually revealed.

Trump aides were also investigated by the State Department over allegations that they stole goodie bags meant for foreign dignitaries attending the 2020 G7 summit that was canceled due to the pandemic.

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News24.com | Thousands Protest in Madrid Against NATO Summit

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A crowd demonstrates against NATO.

Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto

Carrying the hammer and sickle flags of the former Soviet Union, thousands protested in Madrid on Sunday against a NATO summit which will take place in the Spanish capital next week.

Amid tight security, leaders of the member countries will meet in Madrid between 29-30 June as the organisation faces the unprecedented challenge of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO is expected to consider the bid, opposed by alliance-member Turkey, for Finland and Sweden to join.

The Nordic nations applied in the wake of the Russian assault on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the war a special military operation he says in part responds to the accession to NATO of other countries near post-Soviet Russia’s borders since the 1990s.

READ | Biden said Putin’s goal of weakening NATO by invading Ukraine backfired spectacularly

“Tanks yes, but of beer with tapas,” sang demonstrators, who claimed an increase in defence spending in Europe urged by NATO was a threat to peace.

“I am fed up (with) this business of arms and killing people. The solution they propose is more arms and wars and we always pay for it. So, no NATO, no (army) bases, let the Americans go and leave us alone without wars and weapons,” said Concha Hoyos, a retired Madrid resident, told Reuters.

Another protester, Jaled, 29, said NATO was not the solution to the war in Ukraine.

Organisers claimed 5,000 people joined the march, but authorities in Madrid put the number at 2 200.

READ | Pandor says Finland’s bid to join NATO indicates a decline in international security

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that the summit would also focus on the threat from Europe’s southern flank in Africa, in which he said Russia posed a threat to Europe.

“The foreign ministers’ dinner on the 29th will be centred on the southern flank,” he told El Pais newspaper.

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News24.com | Turkey Police Break up Istanbul Pride March, Detain Dozens: AFP

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Hakan Akgun/dia images

Turkish police on Sunday forcibly intervened in a Pride march in Istanbul, detaining dozens of demonstrators and an AFP photographer, AFP journalists on the ground said.

The governor’s office had banned the march around Taksim square in the heart of Istanbul but protesters gathered nearby under heavy police presence earlier than scheduled.

Police detained protesters, loading them into buses. AFP journalists saw two buses of people who had been held, including AFP’s chief photographer Bulent Kilic, who had been handcuffed from the back.

Kilic, who was also detained last year during the Pride march, is currently in police custody.

Hundreds of protesters carrying rainbow flags pressed ahead with the rally in defiance of police.

Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTQ individuals point to regular harassment and abuse.

Istanbul Pride has taken place every year since 2003.

The last march which took place without a ban – in 2014 – drew tens of thousands of participants in one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the majority Muslim region.

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News24.com | NASA Blasts Off From Australian Outback in ‘historic’ Launch

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NASA’s first-ever launch from a commercial site outside of the United States blasted off from Australia’s Outback late Sunday, in a “historic” moment for the country’s space industry.

In the first of three planned launches from the Arnhem Space Centre, the rocket, carrying technology likened to a “mini Hubble” telescope, lifted off — blasted about 350 kilometres (218 miles) into the night sky.

“It is a momentous occasion for us as a company in particular, but it’s historic for Australia,” Equatorial Launch Australia CEO Michael Jones told AFP ahead of the lift-off.

Jones, whose company owns and operates the launch site in the far north of Australia, described it as a “coming out” party for the country’s space industry and said the chance to work with NASA was a milestone for commercial space firms in the country.

After a series of rain and wind delays, the suborbital sounding rocket soared into the sky to study x-rays emanating from the Alpha Centauri A and B systems.

After reaching its apogee, the rocket’s payload was to capture data on the star systems before parachuting back to earth.

READ | NASA is slowly powering down the Voyager probes. Here are 18 photos from its 45-year mission.

According to NASA, the launch offers a unique glimpse of the distant systems and unlocked fresh possibilities for scientists.

“We’re excited to be able to launch important science missions from the Southern Hemisphere and see targets that we can’t from the United States,” Nicky Fox, NASA’s Heliophysics Division director in Washington, said on announcing the mission.

Jones said the unique location had made preparations hard, with years of work to get regulatory approval and the need to haul rockets on barges to the launch site – about 28 hours drive from Darwin in northern Australia.

“I think for the team, it’s gonna be, you know, a huge relief that it’s done,” he said.

READ | ‘Giant leap forward’ – South Korea space rocket launch puts satellites in orbit

But with the next launch already looming on July 4, the break would be short-lived.

“We need to, you know, dust ourselves off, take a day off and then get back into it in readiness for the next launch because it’s just as important.”

It is the first NASA rocket to launch from Australia since 1995, and the project was hailed as the start of a “new era” for the country’s space industry by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

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