US declined to prosecute Trump transport chief after inspector general review

Washington D.C.

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – FEBRUARY 28: Secretary of the Department of Transportation Elaine Chao speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference 2020 (CPAC) hosted by the American Conservative Union on February 28, 2020 in National Harbor, MD. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The U.S. Justice Department declined to prosecute then-Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao after the inspector general’s office referred allegations of potential misuse of office for review, a report made public on Wednesday said.

The report included allegations that Chao directed staff to research or purchase personal items for her online using her personal credit card.

The inspector general report looked at several different ethical concerns including her use of federal grant awards benefiting Kentucky, actions related to businesses owned by her family, and personal misuse of the position.

While the inspector general did not find enough to warrant investigations into her use of federal grants or potential financial gain from a specific materials company she invested in, they did launch a formal investigation in 2019 into her misuse of the transportation secretary position.

The report lists four major areas where the inspector general’s office found areas of ethical concern:

  • tasking OST political appointees to contact the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about the status of a work permit application submitted by a foreign student studying at a U.S. university who was a recipient of Chao family philanthropy
  • including family members and personal events in the Secretary’s planned, but subsequently canceled, trip to China in November 2017
  • providing DOT Public Affairs and media support to the Secretary’s father
  • using DOT resources and OST staff time for tasks for the Secretary that appear to be personal in nature

In December, the inspector general’s office referred its findings to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for criminal prosecution, which declined to open a criminal investigation.

The inspector general’s report added prosecutors said “there may be ethical and/or administrative issues to address but there is not predication to open a criminal investigation.”

Chao could not immediately be reached for comment.

Read the full report below

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