friends in high places
July 29, 2019

Investor Thomas Barrack, one of President Trump's close advisers, used this connection to push the White House to support a nuclear power project backed by Saudi Arabia, according to a new report released Monday by Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Barrack also lobbied the White House to freely transfer sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, the report says, while promoting the interests of U.S. companies trying to profit from the move and taking steps to ensure his own firm, Colony NorthStar, could benefit. He additionally sought several positions in the Trump administration, including ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

Investigators gathered tens of thousands of pages of documents, which the report said "show the administration's willingness to let private parties with close ties to the president wield outsized influence over U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia. These new documents raise serious questions about whether the White House is willing to place the potential profits of the president's friends above the national security of the American people and the universal objective of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons."

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee issued a minority report saying there is no evidence the administration hurried to transfer sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. Lawmakers on both sides have said it could be disastrous if nuclear technology is transferred to Saudi Arabia from the U.S. without the right safeguards in place. Catherine Garcia

June 25, 2019

The New York Post, the conservative New York tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., published an article Friday on longtime New York-based columnist E. Jean Carroll's allegations that President Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room 23 years ago — and then it vanished Friday afternoon, as did an Associated Press article on Carroll's assault allegation. It turns out, CNN Business reported Monday night, the Post's former editor-in-chief, Col Allen, ordered the articles scrubbed.

Allen, a longtime Murdoch lieutenant and professed Trump supporter, rejoined the Post as an adviser earlier this year. As of Tuesday morning, there are no articles on Carroll's allegations on the Post's site — though the dead link to Friday's article still appears on Google and is drawing considerable traffic to what's now a 404 page, CNN Business reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

"A spokeswoman for the Post declined to comment," CNN Business reports. "The spokeswoman did not dispute the account of events CNN Business provided to her, nor did she provide an explanation for the removal of the stories about Carroll's accusations." It's widely suspected inside the Post that Murdoch brought Allen back to steer the tabloid in a more pro-Trump direction, CNN Business reports, and one of the people who said the yanked Carroll article has prompted significant chatter among Post staffers also said there's no real debate as to why it was removed: "Nobody needs to explain why. We already know."

The Wall Street Journal and Fox News' website, also owned by News Corp., both have articles about Carroll's assault accusation. Peter Weber

June 3, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may be luxuriating in his reputation as a villainous legislation killer, but his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, has kept a fairly low profile for a member of President Trump's Cabinet — in the U.S., at least. Chao has been a celebrity in China since she became the first Chinese-American Cabinet secretary under George W. Bush, and she "has repeatedly used her connections and celebrity status in China to boost the profile" of her family's shipping business, The New York Times reports.

Chao's father, James Chao, founded the shipping company, Foremost Group, in 1964. While its headquarters are in Manhattan, Foremost now "builds most of its ships in state-owned shipyards in China, with some financed by Chinese government loans," primarily shipping iron ore and other raw materials to China, using ships registered in Liberia and Hong Kong through companies in the Marshall Islands, the Times reports.

Chao hasn't had a formal role at Foremost since the 1970s, but she and McConnell have benefitted in other ways — James Chao gave them a gift worth between $5 million and $25 million in 2008, and Chao's family has donated $1.1 million to McConnell's campaigns and political action committees since 1989 — and Chao's advocacy for Foremost has at times blurred the lines between family business and official duty, the Times found.

Chao said in a statement that her family members "are patriotic Americans who have led purpose-driven lives and contributed much to this country," and a Transportation Department spokesman said the Times wove "together a web of innuendos and baseless inferences." Her sister, Foremost CEO Angela Chao, told the Times that Foremost was "around and we were well respected well before Elaine was in anything. We predate her; she doesn't predate us." Read more about Chao's proposed cuts for the struggling U.S. maritime industry she oversees, her family's powerful friends in China, and Chao's role as a "bridge" between China and the U.S. at The New York Times. Peter Weber

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