The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has opened a probe to review allegations that Donald Trump Jr. may have illegally killed a rare sheep during a recent trophy hunting trip in Mongolia.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it will review allegations that Donald Trump Jr., may have illegally killed a rare sheep during a recent trip to Mongolia and imported parts of the animal back to the U.S.,” Roll Call reported Wednesday.
“Animal conservation activists said President Donald Trump’s eldest son may have violated a federal wildlife anti-trafficking law after ProPublica reported last week that he shot and killed an argali sheep without proper permits during a personal trip in August,” the publication noted. “The Mongolian government issued a permit for hunting the sheep after the fact, and it’s unclear what happened to the animal after it was killed, according to the report.”
On Wednesday morning, a spokesman for the president’s son defended the adventure, saying: “This was a purely personal, father-son trip, which Mr. Trump bought in 2015 at an NRA auction before his father had even announced that he was running for office. No government officials from Mongolia or the U.S. were involved in organizing the hunt… Mr. Trump paid for his trip to Mongolia on his own, flew commercial and timely applied for and secured all required permits through a third-party outfitter—as is standard in the industry. As a protectee of the U.S. Secret Service, Mr. Trump has no say in or control over the security protocols that are deemed necessary and appropriate by the Service.”
The Center for Biological Diversity, in a Dec. 13 letter, asked FWS law enforcement to evaluate whether the reported hunt and retroactive permit violated any U.S. or Mongolian laws.
“Under the Lacey Act of 1900, it is illegal to import animal trophies in contravention with foreign laws and individuals found in violation can be subject to fines and prison time,” Roll Call reports. “In its letter, the group also asked if there were any permits pending to import the animal that Trump allegedly killed and noted the argali sheep population in Mongolia is protected under the Endangered Species Act and a 1975 international treaty governing wildlife trafficking.”
“We urge you to ensure that the protections in place for argali — including from hunters and poachers — are enforced and special access is not provided for wealthy, white hunters from the West, even if their father is the U.S. president,” the letter reads.
FWS spokeswoman Christina Meister said in a Dec. 16 email that the agency “has received the Center for Biological Diversity’s electronic letter and is in the process of reviewing this matter.”
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said it has also requested records on Dec. 13 from the Interior Department for all licenses to import argali sheep granted to Trump Jr. or Kevin Small, a Republican donor who was reportedly also on the trip.
CREW also filed requests for information to the Department of Homeland Security and State Department related to the reported hunt, including communications between U.S. and Mongolian officials and any costs incurred to taxpayers.