U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is the target of a new investigation by House Democrats who are trying to determine whether the powerful member of Trump's cabinet, and the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has abused her position in order to provide financial or other benefits to members of her family and herself.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), who chairs the subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent a joint letter (pdf) to Chao on Monday requesting documents and explaining the nature of their probe.
"The Committee," Cummings and Krishnamoorthi wrote, "is examining your misstatements of fact, your actions that may have benefited the company in which you continued to hold shares, and your compliance with ethics and financial disclosure requirements." The letter cites specific incidents and "troubling questions about whether you are using office to benefit yourself and your family."
According to a statement from the Oversight Committee:
Several reports indicate that Chao has used her official position to benefit Foremost Group, a shipping company owned by her father and sisters, and to increase its influence and status with the Chinese government, which has extended hundreds of millions of dollars in low-interest loans to the company for the purchase of foreign-flagged ships.
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Chao reportedly appeared alongside her father, the founder of Foremost Group, in at least a dozen Chinese media interviews—many of which were behind the official seal of the Department of Transportation. Chao's father touted her influence within the United States government and boasted about his access to President Trump on Air Force One.
In addition to questions about Foremost, Chao also came under fire earlier this year when it was revealed she had failed to divest from Vulcan, a major asphalt company that, as Common Dreams reported in May, clearly presented the appearance of a conflict of interest.
As The Hill reports Monday:
The Oversight Committee requested that Chao provide by Sept. 30 all internal government communications about Foremost Group and Vulcan; her canceled Oct. 2017 trip to China and an official trip to China in April 2018; her annual Public Financial Disclosure reports; and whether she has used a personal email address to communicate with her family or Foremost Group employees about official Transportation Department business.
A spokeperson from Chao's office at the Transportation Department dismissed the accusation of corruption as "media attacks," but said the department would cooperate with the request for documents.