The Transportation Division’s watchdog requested the Justice Division to criminally examine Elaine Chao late final 12 months over issues that she misused her workplace when she was transportation secretary underneath President Donald Trump however was rebuffed, based on a report launched Wednesday.
The report stated the Justice Division’s felony and public integrity divisions declined in December to take up the case for felony prosecution following the inspector basic’s findings that Chao used her employees and workplace for private duties and to advertise a delivery enterprise owned by Chao’s father and sisters, in an obvious violation of federal ethics guidelines. That firm does intensive enterprise with China.
“A proper investigation into potential misuses of place was warranted,” deputy inspector basic Mitch Behm wrote in a letter to lawmakers.
Chao, the spouse of Senate Republican chief Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, stepped down from her job early this 12 months within the final weeks of the Trump administration, citing her disapproval over the Jan. 6 riot on the Capitol by Trump’s supporters.
Chao has denied wrongdoing.
Within the report launched Wednesday, she didn’t particularly reply to allegations, as a substitute offering a September 2020 memo that argued selling her household was an acceptable a part of her official duties on the division.
“Asian audiences welcome and reply positively to actions by the secretary that embrace her father in actions when acceptable,” that memo stated.
The watchdog report cited a number of situations that raised moral issues. In a single, Chao instructed political appointees within the division to contact the Homeland Safety Division to test personally on the standing of a piece allow software for a scholar who was a recipient of her household’s philanthropic basis.
Chao additionally made intensive plans for an official journey to China in November 2017 — earlier than she canceled it — that might have included stops at locations that had obtained assist from her household’s enterprise, the New York-based Foremost Group. Based on division emails, Chao directed her employees to incorporate her relations within the official occasions and high-level conferences throughout the journey.
“Above all, let’s maintain (the Secretary) joyful,” one of many division’s staff wrote to a different staffer concerning Chao’s father. “If Dr. Chao is joyful, then we needs to be flying with a feather in our hat.”
The report discovered that Chao additionally directed the division’s public affairs employees to help her father within the advertising and marketing of his private biography and to edit his Wikipedia web page, and used employees to test on repairs of an merchandise at a retailer for her father.
The IG report stated Justice Division officers in the end declined to take up a felony evaluation, saying there “could also be moral and/or administrative points” however no proof to assist potential felony expenses.
In consequence, the inspector basic’s workplace stated within the report it was now closing its investigation “primarily based on the shortage of prosecutorial curiosity” from the Justice Division.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, chairman of the Home transportation committee, who requested the investigation, expressed disappointment that the evaluation was not accomplished and launched whereas Chao was nonetheless in workplace.
“Public servants, particularly these answerable for main tens of hundreds of different public servants, should know that they serve the general public and never their household’s non-public industrial pursuits,” he stated.