The Mongolian government reportedly granted President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., a rare permit to hunt an endangered sheep only after he had illegally shot and killed the animal during a trip in Mongolia.
According to a ProPublica report published on Wednesday, Trump Jr. shot and killed an argali, a species of sheep listed as endangered and which requires a permit to be hunted legally, during a recent hunting trip to Mongolia in August.
“His adventure was supported by government resources from both the U.S. and Mongolia, which each sent security services to accompany the president’s eldest son and grandson on the multiday trip,” ProPublica reports. “It also thrust Trump Jr. directly into the controversial world of Mongolian trophy hunting — a polarizing practice in a country that views the big-horned rams as a national treasure. The right to kill an argali is controlled by an opaque permitting system that experts say is mostly based on money, connections and politics.”
The president’s son was not offered a permit for shooting the animal until after he left the region, according to ProPublica, raising questions about whether he received special treatment.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment from several news outlets.
A spokesman for Trump Jr. told ProPublica that the trip was a personal excursion won at auction before Trump announced his candidacy in 2015.
Trump Jr.’s spokesman added that the permit was obtained “as is standard in the industry” through a third party.
The Argali population in Mongolia is believed to sit in the low tens of thousands following years of hunting and habitat destruction.
“What are the chances the Mongolian government would’ve done any of that to someone who wasn’t the son of the United States’ president?” asked Kathleen Clark, a professor specializing in legal ethics at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law.
She said that though Trump Jr. is not a government employee, he’s nonetheless politically influential, incentivizing foreign officials such as the Mongolian leader to treat him favorably out of a “desire on the part of a foreign government to curry favor with the president’s family.”