Politico: Elaine Chao’s Interviews with Father Raise Ethical Flags


President Trump’s Depart of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao has come under ethical scrutiny for appearing with her shipping mogul father in numerous Chinese media interviews, including at least one that appears to have been conducted at the DOT and prominently features the DOT flag in the background.

Politico’s Tanya Snyder reports:

In at least a dozen interviews with Chinese and Chinese-American media outlets since her nomination, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has appeared beside her shipping magnate father, whose company carries goods between the United States and Asia, and who has given Chao and her husband [Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] at least $5 million in the past 10 years.

In many of the videos, James Chao is introduced as founder and chairman of the Foremost Group shipping company, and, in discussing a 2016 biography about his life, speaks proudly of his daughter’s role as secretary of transportation, as she sits beaming by his side.

One interview with New China Press published on April 12, 2017, features the pair sitting in what appears to be the Department of Transportation, with DOT flags in view behind the interviewer. Long portions of the interview are in Chinese, with James Chao talking about his life story, with a copy of his biography on the screen, and Elaine Chao extolling her father’s success story as “lifting the status of Asian-Americans in America.” She also touts his $40 million gift to Harvard University.

The appearances raise ethical concerns, experts say, because public officials are legally banned from using their office for any form of private gain for themselves or others. In the videos, James Chao, who has four other living daughters, sits beside the transportation secretary while discussing the family business — which has expanded in recent years and relies in part on Asian and Asian-American customers — and his 2016 biography, which touts him as a business success and philanthropic leader.

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.”

According to Politico, experts believe Chao may have run afoul of a regulation forbidding federal officials from using their public office for their “own private gain” or “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.”

In a statement to Politico, a DOT spokesperson said, “There is nothing inappropriate with a Cabinet member appearing with her father or other family members. The secretary’s appearances are intended to share an inspirational story about immigrants from a minority community who have become successful in our country.”

Read the rest of the Politico story here.


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