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Internal watchdog said ex-Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao misused position, referred case for prosecution

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Elaine Chao fired up the crowd for her husband, Senator Mitch McConnell, at a rally at Gaffney's Farm in Versailles, Kentucky, on the eve of the election. Nov. 2, 2020

The U.S. Transportation Department’s inspector general’s office formally investigated former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for potential violations of ethics rules and misuse of her position — and ultimately referred the case for criminal prosecution in late 2020.

The inspector general’s investigation focused, among other things, on how Chao — who is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — may have aided her family’s shipping company, Foremost Group, which does significant business in China, according to a report that was publicly released this week.

Foremost Group is helmed by her father, James S.C. Chao, and her sister, Angela Chao. Neither Elaine Chao nor McConnell as a financial stake in the company, based on publicly available information and financial disclosure forms.

The inspector general’s investigation uncovered evidence “relating to potential ethics concerns arising from the actions” of Chao and certain members of her staff “under her direction,” including: 

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