In August of 2019, Donald Trump Jr. traveled to Central Asia, to a remote the region of Western Mongolia, where he saw their beloved endangered argali, the largest sheep in the world. Then he shot and killed one.
Trump Jr.’s expedition was aided by government resources from America and Mongolia- both of which sent security for the President’s son (and grandson) on the trip.
This trip landed Trump Jr. smack in the middle of the world of trophy hunting. This controversial “sport” is extremely polarizing, particularly in a country that sees the big-horned sheep as a national treasure.
If a person is granted the right to kill one of those endangered creatures, experts agree it is based on politics, connections, and MONEY.
According to reports obtained by ProPublica and interviews with people specifically involved with the hunt, Trump Jr. was given exclusive treatment during his summer trip. Afterwards, on Sept. 2, he was given a rare retroactive permit which allowed him to kill the animal.
Local records show it is extremely rare for these permits to be given after a hunter has left and apparetnly only three permits of the like have been issued in that region.
According to a local government official, after the hunt and before departing the capital of Ulaanbaatar to head back to the U.S., Trump Jr. met privately with the country’s president, Khaltmaagiin Battulga.
The nature and content of the discussion remains unknown as Trump Jr. and representatives for Battulga have not respond to requests for comment.
Kathleen Clark, a professor specializing in legal ethics at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, said, “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?”
She believes that Trump Jr., although not technically a government employee, still has great political influence which perhaps leads foreign officials, such as the Mongolian president, to grant him special treatment out of a “desire on the part of a foreign government to curry favor with the president’s family.”
“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?”
A spokesman for Trump Jr., who is a known outdoorsman, said the trip was purely personal. He bid on the trip, a seven-day adventure, at a National Rifle Association charity auction well before Donald Trump Sr. announced his intent to run for president.
The was sponsored by a Mongolian tourism company and arranged by a member of the Mongolian president’s political party, Jandos Kontorbai Ahat.
Mongolia is a young democracy, full of resources and faces pressures from its neighbors, specifically the Chinese. New legislation on Mongolian cashmere and other products that would lessen its dependence on China. It considers the U.S. an ally and relies on the U.S. for financial and security support.
The hunt came on the heels of some important government discussions and a White House meeting between the U.S. and Mongolia, during which President Trump’s youngest son, Barron, received a horse as a gift from the Mongolian president. Trump named the horse (which resides in Mongolia) “Victory.”
In an interview, Ahat called the trophy hunting permitting system in Mongolia “very political.” He wouldn’t say how he arranged for Trump Jr.’s permit, or acknowledge that the hunt took place, but he praised Trump Jr. “Don Jr. was an upstanding person, he never did anything that was unpleasant,” Ahat said. “He treated people with respect.”
Ahat, who arranged the trip, said the embassy’s defense attache went along with Trump Jr. and the rest of the party for the hunt. Sources close to the trip say that Trump Jr. was accompanied by five American bodyguards. That will have to remain speculation, however since, according to an agency spokesman, the U.S. Secret Service does not comment on specific protection details.
While the White House, State Department, Defense Department, the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia, and the NRA have declined to comment about the trip, Trump’s Jr.s spokesman has released a statement. He said that no government officials from EITHER country were responsible for organizing the trip. The statement also said that the permits were obtained legally and appropriately by a third party “as is standard in the industry.”
Trump Jr.’s particular cost has not been made public but research shows that Mongolian outfitters typically charge somewhere between $25,000 AND $50,000 ’s not clear what Trump Jr. paid for his hunting excursion, but a review of online promotions shows that to westerners who want to hunt argali.
The population of argalis has declined rapidly over the last few decades, from 50,000 in 1985 to 18,000 in 2009, which is the most recent survey. Although hunting permits are designed to protect the sheep, it certainly appears that the conservation effort is not working in this case. The argali are categorized as threatened on the list of U.S. Endangered Species.
Trophy hunting is an extremely divisive subject, with some advocates saying that these sponsored hunts help to manage population, with permit fees helping to financially support communities, etc. But this is at odds with the findings of some conservation biologists who believe the programs are ineffective and disruptive.
In Mongolia, permits are usually arranged by high level government contacts and are extremely influenced by money, power, and favoritism. The government allowed 86 permits in 2019 for a season that lasts from July 1 – September 30.
Trump Jr. hunted and shot his trophy argali at night, said guides. He used a rifle with a laser sight. He didn’t allow dismemberment of the animal at the kill site, but rather told the guides to carry the sheep back using a large aluminum sheet so as to leave the fur and horns in good shape. On this same trip he also killed a red deer.
Khuandyg Akhbas, 50, a guide on the hunt said, “At night, we couldn’t find where the animal fell, and we used our light from our phones to find the animal… In the morning they took the animal by truck to the mountain and shot a video on top of the mountain.”
The guides involved said they were impressed with Trump’s hunting capability and his handling of the body. They said they were not permitted to pose with him in any photographs. Trump Jr. did post almost two dozen pictures from his trip to Instagram, although none of the argali.
Instagram posts from a Turkish hunting guide, Kaan Karakay, indicate that Trump Jr. was joined by a Republican donor. Karakaya posted photos of American oil and gas company CEO Kevin Small around the same time as Trump Jr.’s trip. In one of the photos of Small posing with his argali, Trump Jr. actually commented, “Amazing sheep and amazing guy.” The link to the post is now deactivated.
No answers are clear as to what exactly happened to Trump Jr.’s argali after he shot and killed it. If he had wanted to import the fur and horns, he would have had to applied for and granted special permission by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and neither Trump or the service have commented on whether or not he applied for such a licence.