Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer, author of Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, joined SiriusXM hosts Rebecca Mansour and Joel Pollak on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Tonight to discuss the nomination of Gordon Hartogensis, brother-in-law to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to lead the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
“The McConnell-Chao family, they have a large extended family. In fact, Elaine Chao has five sisters. Those sisters are, like Elaine, very smart and very well-educated. Grace Chao, her younger sister, her husband has been nominated to serve as the head of the pension guarantees fund corporation that the federal government runs,” Schweizer explained.
“This is basically a government entity that is supposed to serve as a quasi-insurance for a corporate pension,” he continued. “If you have a corporation that has a pension fund set up for employees, and they have a bad couple of years, and they have to declare bankruptcy, the pension is protected by the federal government. That’s the theory behind it.”
“Grace Chao’s husband has been nominated for this position,” he said. “The nomination came out. There was very little on his background. It was not made clear the fact that he is related to Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao.”
“What’s also interesting is there’s very little background on him. They simply list him as an entrepreneur. The problem is that he really doesn’t seem to have any background whatsoever in the pension business, in the finance business. He’s done a little bit of work in the tech space, and he has managed some family trusts. That’s all that is known about him,” said Schweizer.
“It raises all kinds of questions about nepotism, about qualifications,” he said. “We, of course, have discussed the financial entanglements of the Chao family on this program before and in my book. I think it adds a further layer of intrigue to precisely what this family is up to in Washington, DC.”
Mansour noted that the White House statement announcing Hartogensis’ nomination referred to him vaguely as an “investor and technology sector leader with experience managing financial equities, bonds, private placements, and software development.” Some media accounts of the nomination have expressed skepticism of his meager credentials for such an important position.
Schweizer noted that the software company Hartogensis presided over, Auric LLC, is “closely held,” and there is “very little known about it.”
“It’s certainly possible that he has all this experience, but they never really spell it out,” he said. “I mean, what deals are they referring to? Honestly, by that definition, ‘has a background in the financial sector’ – you know, I’ve bought some bonds in the past, Rebecca. Does that mean I have experience in the bond market?”
Schweizer speculated that the White House was trying to “sneak this nomination in,” but the effort was spoiled when the connection to McConnell’s family was drawn.
“I think we ought to be fair-minded in the sense that, let this person have his hearing, but the fact that they tried to slide it in – in addition to the fact that the Chao family has, as we talked about before, these very extensive financial ties to the Chinese government – it raises questions about, particularly, what are the ties there? What experience does he have? Is he going to be beholden to Mitch McConnell or Elaine Chao or to the family in some way? Those are all fair and legitimate questions that ought to be asked of any nominee for these sorts of positions, but I think, particularly, for somebody that they apparently seem to be trying to hide what, precisely, those family ties are,” he said.
“It was not apparent at all from the announcement,” he pointed out. “They did not, certainly, mention his wife. This is all now coming tumbling out. I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s always good for people to have as much information as possible as to who these nominees are.”
Schweizer restated that there is a “massive conflict of interest” between the McConnell-Chao family and America’s strategic and economic adversary China, with which the Chaos have extensive business dealings through their shipping company, the Foremost Group.
“The Chinese government has made the McConnell-Chao family lots of money over the years,” he said. “As we’ve also recounted, just last year in 2017, they contracted with the China State Shipbuilding Corporation – this is the Chao family – to have the Chinese State Shipbuilding Corporation build ten large super-ships for them, cargo ships. We don’t know how much they paid for these ships. We know in the past the Chinese government has financed the construction of these ships. We know that they give the Foremost Group lots of contracts to ship goods around Asia.”
“That’s a problem. Not only is it a problem for Mitch McConnell, who is, of course, in the Senate responsible for shepherding legislation that’s related to a whole host of issues that matter to China; it’s also a concern for the transportation secretary,” Schweizer contended.
“We think of the transportation secretary as somebody who, okay, they’re involved in the highway system, or maybe they’re involved in airports. No, the transportation secretary has international responsibilities, including international shipping,” he pointed out.
“There are a lot of things the transportation secretary could do for, or against, a foreign government like China because of their ability to control flow on ports,” he continued. “There are international initiatives China is undertaking. They have one called One Belt, One Road, where they’re seeking to build Chinese infrastructure through Africa and Asia. Many U.S. observers in both the Trump administration and the Obama administration see this as a strategic challenge to the United States. Well, the U.S. Transportation Department can actually do things to help or to hinder Chinese development of One Belt, One Road.”
“To have Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao in positions of responsibility where they can help the Chinese, to be so dependent financially on the Chinese for the family’s financial fortunes, raises all kinds of troubling questions. Nobody in Washington seems to want to talk about this,” he said.
Schweizer wondered why McConnell and Chao are not asked about these conflicts of interest during their media appearances.
“Don’t accuse them of anything, just ask them a question,” he advised. “Do you have these ties? Do they present a conflict of interest? Is it true that your family business could be destroyed by the Chinese government tomorrow? How much money have you made with the help of the Chinese government? These are all fair, honest questions that they ought to be asked, and yet nobody in the media seems to be prepared to ask these very basic questions of two very powerful people in Washington, DC.”
Mansour noted that China is increasingly aggressive about using its economic power to influence politics and corporate behavior beyond its borders, citing a recent incident in which the Gap clothing store was forced to apologize for creating a T-shirt that showed China but did not include Taiwan and the South China Sea as part of its territory.
“These are overt expressions of raw Chinese power, to go after the Gap, to go after Marriott and these other companies for not including a little speck, the island nation of Taiwan, on a T-shirt as part of China,” Schweizer agreed. “If they’re prepared to do that publicly, imagine the pressure that they are prepared to exert on people like Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao and their family in private.”
“You have a lot of people in Washington; it’s not just the McConnells. I talk about it in Secret Empires. The Biden family as well, but also a lot of entertainment companies and media companies that are prepared to look the other way to Chinese actions, to Chinese aggression, to Chinese behavior to make a buck because China has the ability to make people wealthy with sweetheart deals,” he said.
“The head of the Canadian Intelligence Service a couple of years ago issued a statement that Canadian members of Parliament and their family members were being offered sweetheart deals by the Chinese,” he recalled. “Everybody’s aware that this is going on. Nobody wants to talk about it. The big media companies don’t want to talk about it. Certainly, the entertainment industry wants to shy away from these issues.”
“I think in Washington, DC, you have a combination of some people that are intimidated by Mitch McConnell because of his power. They’re in the Senate, they’re trying to get legislation passed for their state, for their constituents, so they don’t want to upset the applecart. But, frankly you’ve also got some people that are either doing deals with the Chinese themselves – you’re not going to see Joe Biden criticize them on these issues because his son, Joe Biden’s son, got a sweetheart deal from the Chinese government. You’ve got others that are probably doing the same or perhaps hoping down the road to have the same,” he said.
Schweizer said that “the unspoken issue in Washington, DC, that nobody wants to talk about” is the “foreign money sloshing around in Washington.”
“I know there have been a lot of stories about Russian money. I’m saying Russian money is an issue that obviously ought to be looked at, but the Russians have a small fraction of the amount of money to toss around as the Chinese do. The Chinese have been extremely successful in essentially buying off portions of the American political class with these lucrative deals,” he warned.
Mansour suggested that if the Republicans will not police themselves for conflicts of interests, Democrats and outsider candidates should do it for them.
“Mitch McConnell is so loathed by voters that even a crazy candidate who just starts to attack Mitch McConnell will rise in the polls,” she said. “That’s how much he is loathed by — I’m talking voters on both sides of the aisle. He is absolutely radioactive. He is toxic.”
“If the GOP will not police their side, will not deal with this swamp captain who is so compromised, then I have to say, I encourage the Democrats to. That’s how disgusted I am with this. That’s how serious I take this issue,” she said.
“This is why Breitbart is so important,” Mansour continued. “We actually police our side. The Democrats typically don’t police their side at all. We do. We police our side. I’ve got to say, you know what? If the Republicans will not stand up to this swamp lord and his family, then I encourage the Democrats to. Dear Kamala Harris: make an issue of this. Dear Bernie Sanders: make an issue of this. Dear Elizabeth Warren: make an issue of this. This guy is ripe for the picking. Go for it. Make it a campaign issue.”
Schweizer said leaders who tackle corruption head-on “not only accomplish important things; they do well politically because they know that this stuff is going on, they’re angered that it’s going on, and they’re waiting for somebody to rise up and say it.”
Pollak asked if the eve of a crucial midterm election is really the best time to “aim rhetorical fire at the Republican leader in the Senate” because “you’re telling voters that if they vote Republican, they’re getting Mitch McConnell, who now you’ve made toxic, and you’re saying, ‘Well, you may as well vote Democratic then.’”
“My view is, I don’t know that Mitch McConnell gains you any votes,” Schweizer responded. “I don’t think he helps in any of these marginal races. The question becomes, will a voter – let’s say you’ve got a Senate race in Nevada – will a voter be turned off if Republicans, maybe the Republican candidate in Nevada, is calling out Mitch McConnell on these issues? I’m not sure that it’s going to hurt that candidate. I would posit that it could potentially help them.”
“These issues need to be addressed at some point, and it never seems to be a convenient time for a lot of these people. My point would be to those who say we need to wait until after November, I would just say, ‘Okay, then I expect to hear you talking about this in December.’ I’m just doubtful that we will because I think there is this culture that I talked about of perpetuating this corruption, either out of fear or because there’s a desire for them to benefit from it,” he said.
“There are decisions that people have to make strategically,” Schweizer conceded. “I just think that oftentimes it’s never a good time to talk about these corruption issues. But I think you’re right, Rebecca: eventually, they do catch up with you, and it becomes so endemic in the system.”
“If you look at the West Virginia race, what I found interesting is that in the debates, none of the three major Republican candidates said that they would support Mitch McConnell for leader,” he observed. “He’s not a popular figure. I think the question becomes, when is this eventually going to catch up with him? I think it will.”
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