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draining the swamp

Inspector general found Elaine Chao used office to benefit her family

The Department of Transportation's inspector general found that former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao used her office to benefit her family, primarily her father and sister, and in December referred the case to the Justice Department.

Chao, the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), served in the Trump administration, and resigned on Jan. 7, following the Capitol riot. The report was sent to lawmakers on Tuesday, and includes more than a dozen instances of the office promoting the interests of Chao's father, who founded a shipping company in the 1960s, and her sister, who now runs the company.

The report states that in 2017, Chao had her staff plan an official trip to China. Her father, sister, and brother-in-law were set to join Chao, and she wanted the itinerary to include stops at locations that were only important to her family, such as two universities that receive funding from their charitable foundation. The trip was canceled after it raised ethics concerns among other government officials, The New York Times reports.

Investigators also learned that Chao asked staffers to help promote a book written by her father, edit his Wikipedia page, and check on the status of a work permit application for a foreign student who won a scholarship from Chao's family foundation. The report states that none of the Transportation Department employees who spoke with investigators said they ever felt "coerced" into performing "personal or inappropriate tasks for the secretary."

In December, the findings were referred to the Justice Department for a possible criminal investigation, but the DOJ decided not to take up the case. The inspector general ended the investigation due to a lack of "prosecutorial interest," but did refer the matter to the Transportation Department's general counsel "for any action it deems appropriate." Read more at The New York Times.