On Wednesday January 20, a financial declaration form of US Bureau of Government Ethics revealed that South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem presented Trump with a suspected – but so far unconfirmed – gift of a bronze bust of Mount Rushmore.
The giveaway fell under the “Travel Gifts and Reimbursements” category, sandwiched between a championship belt from mixed martial artist Colby Covington, valued at $ 650, and a $ 6,000 laptop from CEO of ‘Apple, Tim Cook. The form also stated that former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani had provided the president with free legal services.
On Thursday, January 21, Noem spokesman Ian Fury said “private donations”, not taxpayers’ money, funded the unorthodox statuette. Fury did not respond to a request for information about the sculptor’s name.
But he told the original New York Times story which reported the existence of a “four foot replica” of Mount Rushmore – with the face of Trump joining Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt – was correct in relation to the description of the replica. Fury noted that the monument was “about half the width” as described in the story.
Trump visited the Black Hills on July 3 last year, addressing a crowd and kicking off the return to the fireworks display above the granite monument. Trum[wouldalreadyhavesaidtoNoemthatitwashis[phadreportedlypreviouslytoldNoemitwashis[pauraitdéjàditàNoemquec’étaitson[phadreportedlypreviouslytoldNoemitwashis“dream” be carved out of the granite mountain of the Black Hills.
John Pelissero, researcher at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at the University of Santa Clara, wrote in an email that, given private funding, he did not see “the appearance of an ethical conflict” with the governor’s gift to Trump.
Particularly over the past year, Noem has more frequently associated with the Republican President, inviting him to the July 3 fireworks display, campaigning for him, and even briefly being the subject of media speculation that she was seen as a replacement for Vice President Mike Pence on the Republican ticket.
Note: This story was updated at 9:00 a.m. on January 22, 2021, with additional details.