Yet another Trump administration official is under investigation for corrupt travel-related abuses as Congressional Republicans finally look into the allegations against Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Brock Long.
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According to The New York Times, Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to Mr. Long today seeking information on Long’s alleged repeated misuse of government vehicles in his commute from Washington DC to his family home in Hickory, North Carolina.
The congressional probe comes on the heels of an investigation by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of FEMA, into the charges.
The exact details of Long’s alleged vehicular misuse are somewhat unclear according to The New York Times:
“Former officials who insisted on anonymity to discuss security matters said the FEMA administrator must have access at all times to classified communications equipment, and in certain cases, that means sending a government car equipped with such capabilities with the agency’s chief when he travels.”
Reportedly, it also meant sending multiple aides along with the FEMA administrator on his journeys and putting them up at nearby hotels at taxpayer expense. The Inspector General is also looking whether Long had discussions about future employment with a FEMA contractor, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Even though accounts of the IG’s interest in the matter first surfaced last week, the approach of Hurricane Florence and FEMA’s role in the preparations has kept the allegations of misuse on the back burner until Congressman Gowdy’s announcement today.
Long has predictably denied doing anything improper.
“I would never intentionally run a program incorrectly,” he said. “Doing something unethical is not in my DNA.”
Yesterday, he denied stories that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had already asked him to resign over the scandal.
“Let me go ahead and clear up all the news: Secretary Nielsen has never asked me to resign,” Mr. Long said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “We have a very functional and professional relationship. We talk every day. We are both totally focused on Florence.”
“These vehicles are designed to provide secure communications and the program was actually developed in 2008 — it ran for me the same way it’s run for anybody else,” he continued. “And you know, it’s my understanding that maybe some policies were not developed around these vehicles.”
Representative Gowdy gave the FEMA administrator until the end of the month to respond to the questions he posed in his letter, so it remains to be seen whether Mr. Ford will join several other Trump cabinet-level officials in being ousted from their positions over excessive spending on overly expensive travel and other extravagances.
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned his position after that department’s Inspector General found that 20 of the 21 official trips taken by Price during his brief tenure violated federal travel regulations and recommended that Price reimburse the government $341,000 for the violations.
Scott Pruitt, the former EPA Secretary, and David Shulkin, the ex-Veterans Affairs administrator, were also forced to resign from their positions over T&E abuses. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Housing Secretary Ben Carson have all managed to stay in their jobs despite expense scandals of their own.
It appears as if the Washington swamp is a lot tougher to drain than President Trump promised…particularly when so many members of his own administration are so comfortable mucking around in it.
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