Prime Minister Scott Morrison has started proudly wearing the military decoration bestowed on him by outgoing US President Donald Trump.
The gold-plated Legion of Merit medal was flown from Washington to Canberra on board a RAAF VIP aircraft after being retrieved from a pawn shop where it had been almost hocked by Australia’s ambassador to the US Arthur Sinodinos.
Mr Sinodinos was detained by officers of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia at the pawn shop while trying to flog off the medal he was given by Mr Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien on Monday night US eastern time to pass on to the Australian PM.
The owner of First Cash Jewelry & Loan in Georgetown not far from the White House called police after being suspicious when Mr Sinodinos allegedly entered the store wearing a fedora, fake nose and beard, and a black overcoat and began talking largely in what was described as “very amateurish attempted Yiddish” when haggling over the price he wanted for the item.
A Metro Police spokesperson said the shop owner did not believe Mr Sinodinos was the owner of the medal and may have obtained it by illegal means.
The spokesperson said Mr Sinodinos initially denied trying to sell the medal, telling police “I have no recollection of that” and “that did not happen as far as I can recall” when questioned about why he was trying to pawn the medal.
“But under further questioning he broke down and admitted he had tried to offload the medal but only because he did not think it was a genuine or valuable award,” the spokesperson said.
“Mr Sinodinos said he had never before heard of the Legion of Merit medal and believed it to be a made-up award invented and bestowed by the US President whom he thought had lost his grip on reality in the wake of his electoral defeat in November.
“When we set him straight – about the medal, not about the President’s mental state – he was most apologetic and, given the circumstances and his diplomatic position, we decided to let him go.
“To be fair, even some of our our most grizzled and experienced officers were touched when he openly cried about how hard he was finding it to make an honest living in Washington.”