The US State Department is looking into the whereabouts of a bottle of whisky worth US$5,800 given to former president Donald Trump’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo by the Japanese government in June 2019, according to a document made available on Wednesday.
In the list of “overvalue gifts” received from foreign governments in 2019, the department said the disposition of the Japanese whisky is “unknown” and attached a footnote saying that it is “looking into the matter and has an ongoing inquiry”.
It is unusual for the department to take the step of noting that the whereabouts of such gifts is unknown, according to The New York Times. Similar filings over the past two decades make no mention of any similar investigations, the NYT said.
The list also mentioned that Matt Pottinger, then senior director for Asia at the US National Security Council, received a bottle of Japanese whisky worth US$8,374 in May 2019 from Yoshihide Suga, then chief Cabinet secretary and now prime minister.
In Pompeo’s case, the New York Times reported that it was unclear whether he ever received the gift, as he was in Saudi Arabia on June 24, 2019, the day that Japanese officials gave it to the State Department.
Government officials are often insulated by staff members who receive gifts and messages on their behalf, the newspaper said.
American officials can keep gifts that are worth less than around US$400, but if they want to keep gifts worth more than that, they must purchase them, according to the NYT.
Regarding both bottles of whisky, the document said “non-acceptance would cause embarrassment” to both the donor and Washington, and this is why such gifts are accepted.
So wherever the whisky is now, face has been saved all round.