Did you catch this cute moment between Trump and Putin?
It’s unclear if Trump will be allowed to give Putin’s soccer ball to his son Barron – that is, if U.S. agents haven’t already destroyed the gift in search of a listening device https://t.co/VlY3rrBpa5 pic.twitter.com/oGw1P2Mjdp
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) July 20, 2018
We’ve all been there. Someone gives you a Christmas gift that’s not your size, or one that you already have. You politely thank the person and downplay any plans to regift. And that’s probably what Trump was doing when he said, “That will go to my son, Barron,” because if he actually gave the soccer ball to Barron, there’s a good chance it would be illegal.
Under 5 U.S.C. 7342 (FGDA) government employees are prohibited from accepting any gifts from a foreign government or an international organization that exceeds $390 in value – and that goes for spouses and kids too. [Sidebar: you may be having a little déjà vu over this rule, as it goes hand in hand with allegations of emoluments-clause violations that have haunted Trump during his presidency.]
The FIFA website sells similarly-marked soccer balls in a range of points well under the threshold, so perhaps Barron can start kicking it around the White House lawn without a worry. Still, though, sports memorabilia can be pricey, so we may need to know specifics before determining that the ball is worth less than $390. Speaking of specifics, guess whose job it is to set an official value for the ball? You guessed it – the Trump administration. No word yet on what that number will be.
This isn’t the first time a foreign leader has thrown some sports stuff the way of a First kid; in June 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel came to Washington with some gifts for Sasha and Malia Obama. Merkel gave them each a mini soccer ball, T-shirt, jacket, towel, journal, gym bag and swim goggles. The U.S. government valued the items at $557 – above the legal threshold. Accordingly, the gifts didn’t go to the Obama girls and instead ended up at the National Archives and Records Administration along with other presidential gifts.
Feeling like all this talk of value is a serious buzzkill for gift-giving? Have no fear. Under the rules, there’s always the option for the Trump family to purchase the soccer ball for Barron. Federal law aside, I’ll be the first to agree that in the grand scheme of things, the soccer ball is the least of our worries, regardless of its value.
— Rob Urban (@roburban) July 19, 2018