Watchdog says Elaine Chao, ex-transpo secretary and Mitch McConnell’s wife, misused office including making staff edit her dad’s Wikipedia page

mitch mcconnell elaine chao republican biden inauguration dc capitol
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (L).

  • Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was cited by the IG for misusing her office for personal tasks.
  • A report released Wednesday claims Chao used staff to do tasks for her father and her family’s business.
  • Chao resigned from her position on January 7, one day after the insurrection at the US Capitol.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Elaine Chao, the former transportation secretary under Trump and wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, was cited by the Inspector General for misuse of office, according to a report that went public Wednesday.

Late last year, the Transportation Department’s inspector general requested the Justice Department and US Attorney’s Office investigate “potential conflicts of interest and favoritism” involving Chao, but both departments declined to open an investigation, according to the report.

Investigators found that Chao had used her office’s staff and resources to support her family’s business, including helping with tasks for her father – such as editing his Wikipedia page and promoting his Chinese-language biography, “Fearless Against the Wind.”

“For example, in August 2017, the Secretary directed two OST staffers to send a copy of ‘Fearless Against the Wind’ to a well-known CEO of a major US corporation (which is not regulated by DOT) along with a letter
requesting that he write a foreword for the book and a sample foreword,” the report detailed, adding that another staffer was tasked with editing the sample foreword.

Chao also directed her staff to purchase personal items for her using her personal credit card and tasked them with researching free shipping and coupon codes, according to the report.

Staff were also assigned to arrange a trip to China in November 2017 for her father James Chao and his “delegation,” comprised of the former secretary’s younger sister Angela Chao and Angela’s husband. The trip was later canceled shortly before Elaine Chao’s departure amid ethics concerns raised by news reports at the time.

Chao resigned from her position on January 7, one day after the violent insurrection at the US Capitol.

“Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed,” she said in a statement. “As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”

“Today, I am announcing my resignation as US Secretary of Transportation,” the statement said. “We will help my announced successor Mayor Pete Buttigieg with taking on the responsibility of running this wonderful department.”

An aide to the former transportation secretary told The Times at the time that her departure from the administration was not related to the investigation by the inspector general, according to a report from The New York Times.

McConnell’s office declined to respond.

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