A Department of Transportation guard asked the Justice Department to investigate Elaine Chao late last year over fears she abused her office when she was transport secretary to President Donald Trump, but was denied, according to a report published. on Wednesday.
The report says the Justice Department’s departments of criminal justice and public integrity refused to open a prosecution case in December after the inspector general’s findings that Chao used his staff and cabinet for personal purposes and to promote shipping owned by Chao’s father and sisters in clear violation of federal ethics. This company does extensive business with China.
“A formal investigation into potential abuses has been justified,”
Chao, the wife of Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, resigned earlier this year in recent weeks from the Trump administration, citing disapproval of the Jan. 6 Capitol uprising by Trump supporters. .
Bye, he denied any wrongdoing. In a report released Wednesday, she did not specifically address the allegations, instead providing a September 2020 note stating that encouraging her family is an appropriate part of her official duties in the department.
“The Asian public welcomes and responds positively to the Secretary’s actions, which involve her father in activities where appropriate,” the note said.
The monitoring report cites several cases that raise ethical concerns. In one, Chao instructed political appointees to contact the national security department to personally check the status of an application for a work permit for a student who is a recipient of her family’s charitable foundation.
Chao also made extensive plans for a formal trip to China in November 2017 – before canceling it – which will include stops at locations supported by her family’s business, the New York-based Foremost Group. According to the department’s emails, Chao instructed her employees to involve their relatives in official events and high-level meetings during the trip.
“First of all, let’s be happy (the secretary),” one department employee wrote next to another about Chao’s father. “If Dr. Chao is happy, then we should fly with a feather in our hat.”
The report found that Chao also directed public relations staff to assist her father in marketing his personal biography and editing his Wikipedia page, and used staff to check repairs to an item in his father’s store. .
The IG report states that Justice Department officials ultimately refused to undertake a criminal investigation, saying it “may have ethical and / or administrative issues”, but there was no evidence to support possible criminal charges.
As a result, the inspector general’s office said in the report that it was now concluding its investigation “based on a lack of prosecutorial interest” by the Ministry of Justice.
Representative Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, chairman of Parliament’s Transport Committee, who requested the investigation, expressed disappointment that the review had not been completed and released while Chao was still in office.
“Public servants, especially those in charge of tens of thousands of other civil servants, need to know that they are serving the public, not the private commercial interests of their families,” he said.