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

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Former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
  • Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is accused of misusing her office for personal tasks.

  • A newly released report found Chao used staff to do tasks for her father and her family's business.

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

  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Elaine Chao, the Trump administration's transportation secretary, was found to have misused her office, according to a report by the Transportation Department's inspector general that went public Wednesday.

Late last year, the inspector general requested that the Justice Department and the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia 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, the report found.

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

Chao, who is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, resigned from her position on January 7, the day after the 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."

An aide to Chao told The New York Times at the time that her departure from the administration was not related to the investigation by the inspector general.

McConnell's office declined to respond.

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