The Transportation Division’s watchdog requested the Justice Division to criminally examine Elaine Chao late final yr over considerations that she misused her workplace when she was transportation secretary beneath President Donald Trump however was rebuffed, in accordance with a report launched Wednesday.
The report stated the Justice Division’s prison and public integrity divisions declined in December to take up the case for prison prosecution following the inspector common’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 in depth enterprise with China.
“A proper investigation into potential misuses of place was warranted,” deputy inspector common 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 yr within the final weeks of the Trump administration, citing her disapproval over the Jan. 6 rebellion 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 applicable a part of her official duties on the division.
“Asian audiences welcome and reply positively to actions by the secretary that embody her father in actions when applicable,” that memo stated.
The watchdog report cited a number of cases that raised moral considerations. In a single, Chao instructed political appointees within the division to contact the Homeland Safety Division to examine personally on the standing of a piece allow utility for a scholar who was a recipient of her household’s philanthropic basis.
Chao additionally made in depth 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. In keeping with 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 hold (the Secretary) completely happy,” one of many division’s workers wrote to a different staffer concerning Chao’s father. “If Dr. Chao is completely happy, 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 examine 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 prison evaluate, saying there “could also be moral and/or administrative points” however no proof to assist potential prison expenses.
Because of this, the inspector common’s workplace stated within the report it was now closing its investigation “primarily based on the dearth 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 evaluate was not accomplished and launched whereas Chao was nonetheless in workplace.
“Public servants, particularly these chargeable for main tens of 1000’s of different public servants, should know that they serve the general public and never their household’s personal industrial pursuits,” he stated.