A pair of Democratic congressmen are seen in photos sitting shirtless on camels during a trip to Qatar paid for by a special interest group.
Photos posted to Instagram on a now-removed account show Reps. Eric Swalwell of California and Ruben Gallego of Arizona, along with their wives, riding camels without masks in March — at a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged people to keep face coverings on outside even if vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an Insider report on Friday.
The photos, posted by Sydney Barron Gallego, then-fiancee to congressman Gallego, appear to have been taken during a trip funded by the U.S.-Qatar Business Council in which the trade group spent more than $84,000 and involved at least three other lawmakers, data from LegiStorm show.
Although the congressmen got approval from the House Ethics Committee for the trip, which otherwise included time for meetings and "personal time," House rules dictate that private groups cannot fund entertainment activities during such excursions. However, family members are allowed to join in these trips.
Swalwell's and Gallego's offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether taxpayer dollars were used for the trip. The U.S.-Qatar Business Council denied funding the camel ride.
"USQBC did not pay for any camel rides during the trip to Qatar. As indicated in its filings required to obtain approval from the House Committee on Ethics, USQBC only covered costs directly associated with travel and the working agenda of the trip," the trade group said in a statement given to the Washington Examiner.
Swalwell, a 2020 presidential election dropout, is no stranger to controversy. Republicans called for him to be removed from the House Intelligence Committee after it was revealed he once had a relationship with Fang Fang, a suspected Chinese spy.
Washington Examiner Videos
Original Author: Daniel Chaitin