Former 2020 Presidential candidate Eric Swalwell along with a group of Democrat congressmen spent a lavish holiday in Qatar earlier this year where they were seen soaking up in the sun and even posed shirtless on camels. The pricey trip was sponsored by a special interest group, according to a report on Friday.
Instagram photos published by Business Insider showed Swalwell and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) happily posing shirtless while riding camels along the Persian Gulf. The photos, however, have been removed from the Instagram account.
As many as five House members including Swalwell can be seen sitting shirtless on camels in the middle of a desert in Qatar in March when they went on an all-paid pricey trip paid for by a trade group. Their wives were also accompanying them and can be seen in the now-deleted photos posted on Instagram.
Besides Swalwell, a prominent member of the House Intelligence Committee, and Gallego, others who joined them on the trip were Reps. Luis Correa (D-Calif.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), and Lisa McClain (R-Mich.).
Interestingly, none of them in the photo is seen with their masks. And this happened 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 were posted by Sydney Barron Gallego, then-fiancee to congressman Gallego, and the trip was funded by the US-Qatar Business Council and cost over $84,000.Sydney is now married to Gallego.
That, said, the trip wasn't serious business and was more like a holiday and took place at a time when international travel was restricted given the way the Covid-19 virus was spreading at that time.
The presence of their wives, joy rides on camels and that too shirtless explain that the trip was more like a holiday. However, Correa disagreed. "Qatar is a major player in the Middle East. They have immense economic and strategic power," Correa told the outlet.
"They also house one of the US's largest military bases, which is critical to regional security. As Qatar continues to expand its regional diplomatic power and natural-gas production, it is in the United States' interest that we deepen our relationship," he added.
However, he defended taking his wife on the trip by saying that he did so because he saw the trip as an opportunity "to spend some time together while working on behalf of the American people."
Swalwell, who hasn't said anything yet, 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.
The paid-for congressional work trip is once again making a comeback as the coronavirus pandemic somewhat comes under control. According to Insider, citing the nonprofit website LegiStorm, private groups have spent more than $280,000 so far this year on trips by members of Congress or their staff, a far cry from the $2.78 million spent on travel to the same point in 2019. Majority among those who accept paid-for travel are Republicans.