New York magazine’s Margaret Hartmann delves deeper into a growing ethics scandal involving President Trump’s Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao and her shipping mogul father, James Chao, whose business relies heavily on partnerships with China’s communist regime.
Hartmann draws from a report in Politico that Chao, who is also the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), appeared in joint interviews with her father in numerous “Chinese and Chinese-American media outlets since her nomination,” including at least one that appears to have been conducted at the DOT and prominently features the DOT flag in the background.
Federal employees are prohibited from using their office for their “own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.” But Chao makes no apparent effort to show she’s promoting her family’s business only as a daughter, not as U.S. Transportation secretary, and in fact, it appears several of the videos were filmed in her government office. DOT flags are shown in several of the spots, like the New China Press interview below, and one video features the state flag of Kentucky, highlighting her tie to the majority leader.
Government connections are an important part of doing business in China, and Politico notes that in many of the videos James Chao brags about his daughter’s government work and contacts. In one video he describes talking with Trump on Air Force One. “The president spent several minutes with me,” he said. “We were talking about business.”
He also describes how his daughter worked to build up the company when she was in college, though her involvement is not listed on her financial-disclosure form. Two of Chao’s sisters have high-level positions at the company, which expanded its capacity by more than 40 percent since Trump’s inauguration. While the secretary has no formal role in the company, her father has given her and McConnell at least $5 million in the past decade.
The deep financial ties between the McConnell-Chao family and China’s communist regime was first reported by Government Accountability Institute president and Breitbart senior editor-at-large Peter Schweizer in his latest #1 New York Times bestseller Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends.
Schweizer revealed how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, Transportation Secretary Chao, received a “gift” from Chao’s shipping mogul father—whose company Foremost Group does massive deals with the Chinese government—for between $5 to $25 million. Elaine Chao’s sister, Angela Chao, also works for the Foremost Group and sits on the board of the Communist Chinese government’s Bank of China.
Schweizer’s book further revealed that Angela Chao was appointed to the Chinese state bank 10 days after President Trump was elected. Since Elaine Chao’s appointment as Trump’s Transportation secretary, China’s government-owned China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) made a deal with the Chao family’s Foremost Group to purchase 10 ships, which effectively increased the Chao family’s fleet by nearly 50 percent.
In April, Defense Secretary James Mattis informed the Senate Armed Services Committee that “long-term strategic competition – not terrorism – is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.” Mattis specifically identified China and Russia as central among the new threats. In January, the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy identified China as a “strategic competitor.”