William Burns, President Joe Biden’s pick to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), admitted during his confirmation hearing last week that he received a gift of a group Super Bowl trip from a Saudi Arabian ambassador during his tenure as president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Breitbart reported.
Details of the trip, including when it was given and who else was invited, were not available. Burns was reportedly hired at the foreign policy think tank in 2015 after retiring from a decades-long career as a U.S. diplomat.
The CIA director nominee also said that he received other gifts from other foreign dignitaries while he worked for Carnegie, from a number of countries.
President Biden called King Salman of Saudi Arabia last week just as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report indicating that the Saudi crown prince was responsible for ordering the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2017, reports noted.
Ties to the CCP?
In addition to accepting foreign gifts from Saudi officials and others, Burns also reportedly has close ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). According to Breitbart, Zhang Yichen, a Chinese businessman affiliated with two different CCP-linked organizations, was installed on Carnegie’s board during Burns’ tenure.
Notably, Zhang’s firm and other related CCP organizations provided millions in funding to Carnegie’s initiatives before and during Burns’ tenure as its president.
Before his time working at Carnegie, Burns served as a deputy secretary of state under former President Barack Obama.
There is a general rule that prevents U.S. officials from receiving gifts from foreign governments; however, Burns was not in violation of that rule, as he was not a U.S. official when he received the gifts. Still, the gifts may lead some to think that Burns could be susceptible to foreign influence.
Confirmation in question
It is unclear whether the disclosure of the gifts will prevent Burns from being confirmed in an evenly divided Senate.
Biden’s first round of nominees didn’t receive much opposition during their hearings, but several later nominees have had contentious hearings in recent days. Assistant Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary nominee Rachel Levine has come under fire for refusing to answer questions about whether she supports minor children’s rights to have gender reassignment surgery and other treatments if they identify as transgender, the New York Post notes.
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), Biden’s pick to head the U.S. Interior Department, has also come under fire for saying she wants to do away with fossil fuels.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Judge Merrick Garland — picked to lead HHS and the Justice Department, respectively — were also grilled by Republicans, according to USA Today, but are expected to be confirmed to their new positions.