US president Donald Trump arrives for the lunch after the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I at Elysée Palace on November 11, 2018, in Paris, France.
  • US president Donald Trump took $750,000 (R12.5 million) of art from the US ambassador's residence in Paris to the White House after he canceled a cemetery visit commemorating US World War I dead, Bloomberg reported.
  • The 2018 decision caused stress for officials but was deemed legal as the art is US property, the report said.
  • The art was a bust and a portrait of US founding father Benjamin Franklin and figurines of Greek mythical characters, but they were found to be replicas and copies, Bloomberg reported.
  • Trump's 2018 trip is under new scrutiny a report in The Atlantic claimed Trump called Marines who died defending Paris in World War I "losers" and "suckers" after his cemetery visit was cancelled.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

US President Donald Trump took home $750,000 (R12.5 million) worth of art from the home of the US ambassador to France during the 2018 visit where he canceled a journey to visit American World War I dead, according to a new Bloomberg report.

According to the outlet, the transfer caused tension between officials, but was deemed legal because the pieces are US property.

But, after being displayed in the White House, they were discovered to be fakes and replicas.

Bloomberg reported that Trump had extra time to spend in the Paris residence after canceling a visit to a cemetery for American soldiers killed during World War I, and found some pieces of art that he liked inside.

He ordered that the artwork be loaded onto Air Force One to be brought back to the White House, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

The works were a bust and a portrait of US founding father Benjamin Franklin and figurines of Greek mythical characters, the outlet reported.

In total, the pieces Trump took were worth around $750,000, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The works were loaded onto Air Force One while Trump was at another ceremony, the outlet reported.

At the time, the White House had blamed bad weather for Trump canceling the cemetary visit, a move that prompted widespread criticism as other world leaders took part in events in Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

People briefed on the art move told Bloomberg that the US ambassador, Jamie McCourt, was "startled" but did not object to the works being taken out of her official residence, which displays artwork and offers tours.

Bloomberg also reported that Trump later joked the art would return "in six years," when he would be about to leave the White House if he served a second term as president. 

US Ambassador to France Jamie McCourt in June 2020.

It reported that Trump's order resulted in "some hair-pulling and a furious exchange of emails" between the State Department's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations and White House officials, but that moving the art was deemed to be a legal act because it is property of the US government.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement to Bloomberg: "The President brought these beautiful, historical pieces, which belong to the American people, back to the United States to be prominently displayed in the People's House."

The artwork turned out to be replicas and copies

The figurines were put on the mantelpiece in the Oval Office.

But Patricia Wengraf, a London-based art dealer, told Bloomberg that the figurines were actually from the 20th century but made to look like they were from the 16th or 17th century. 

Trump was also told that the bust of Benjamin Franklin was actually a replica after White House art curators studied it, according to Bloomberg. 

Upon hearing about the studies, Trump joked that he liked the replica bust better than the original piece, Bloomberg reported, citing two people familiar with the episode.

The portrait of Franklin also turned out to be a copy of a 1785 artwork by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, the outlet said.

Trump's 2018 visit to France is receiving new attention after a report in The Atlantic claimed that Trump called US Marines who died defending Paris in World War I "losers" and "suckers" after his cemetery visit was canceled, and that he called Sen. John McCain, a Republican and a Navy veteran, a "loser" after his 2018 death.

Trump denies the claims, and called for the firing of a Fox News reporter who said she had confirmed some of the details.

Read the full report from Bloomberg »

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