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Donald Trump Jr. under fire for hunting an endangered sheep in Mongolia

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Donald Trump Jr. loves hunting so much that he would never let something as trivial as the law get in his way.

While traveling in Mongolia this summer, the president's eldest son reportedly hunted and killed an endangered argali sheep. And according to a new report, Trump Jr. did not have a government permit to kill the sheep at the time. He only obtained a permit to hunt a few days after leaving the country — and some think he took advantage of his government connections to obtain the permit.

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ProPublica broke the story this week, with a fascinating deep dive on Trump Jr.'s trip to Mongolia. In August, Trump Jr. and his 10-year-old son Donnie went on a seven-day hunting trip in Mongolia, a trip that he won at a 2015 National Rifle Association charity auction, according to his spokesperson. Both the U.S. government and the Mongolian government sent security services to protect Trump Jr. and Donnie during the trip. And in April, about four months before the August trip, Mongolian Ambassador Yondon Otgonbayar and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tsgot Damdin met with Trump Jr. at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida resort frequented by the Trump family, according to AZ Central.

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But even though both the U.S. and Mongolian government were well aware of Trump Jr.'s hunting trip in advance, he did not get prior permission to hunt the argali sheep. When he killed the sheep, he was breaking the law. According to ProPublica, it wasn't until Sept. 2 that the Mongolian government gave Trump Jr. a retroactive permit to hunt the sheep.

It is very rare to receive a permit to kill an argali sheep in Mongolia — the country has only given 86 permits to do so during the 2019 hunting season, which lasts from July through September, according to ProPublica. Not to mention, the news outlet spoke to experts who explained that gaining a permit to kill an argali sheep is "mostly based on money, connections and politics."

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Trump Jr. is certainly set with money, connection, and politics — but how did he manage to score this permit after killing the animal, effectively absolving him of his crime? As Mongolian government official Khuantai Khafezyn told ProPublica, at the end of Trump Jr.'s trip, he had a private meeting with Mongolian president Khaltmaagiin Battulga. 

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It has not been confirmed what the two well-connected men discussed at that meeting — but as Washington University legal ethics professor Kathleen Clark posed to ProPublica: “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?”

Argali sheep are listed under the Endangered Species Act, and their population has gone down drastically over the past few decades. Amgalanbaatar Sukh, head of a local argali research center, told ProPublica that the country was home to 50,000 argali sheep in 1985, and just 18,000 in 2009. 

Species conservation and the climate crisis are inextricably linked. As global temperatures continue to rise, endangered species populations will continue to dwindle. And hunting an endangered species such as the Mongolian argali sheep certainly does not help with conserving the animal's population.

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