The Department of Justice is dropping its insider trading investigation into the coronavirus-related stock trades of Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The department is still investigating trades made by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), however — as part of that investigation, a cell phone was seized after he was served a search warrant by the FBI on May 13 at his Washington, DC, residence.
The FBI, in conjunction with the Securities and Exchange Commission, began an investigation in late March into lawmakers who may have tried to profit from information received over the course of their Senate duties regarding the coronavirus. […]
Lawmakers are required by law to report stock trades in regular disclosures. Congressional financial disclosures don’t list specific transaction amounts, instead breaking reporting into dollar value bands like $1,001 to $15,000, $15,001 to $50,000, etc., up to transactions over $50 million.
On February 13, Burr, who Roll Call estimates is the 154th wealthiest federal lawmaker, sold up to $1.7 million in stock transactions. In making those trades, Burr sold up to $150,000 worth of shares of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. Wyndham’s stock dropped from $59.10 per share at the close on the day Burr sold it to a low of $21.59 on March 19, before rebounding. He also sold up to $100,000 in stock in Extended Stay America, an economy hospitality company.
May 27, 2020
A former White House aide won a $3 million federal contract to supply respirator masks to Navajo Nation hospitals in New Mexico and Arizona 11 days after he created a company to sell personal protective equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Zach Fuentes, President Donald Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, secured the deal with the Indian Health Service with limited competitive bidding and no prior federal contracting experience.
The IHS told ProPublica it has found that 247,000 of the masks delivered by Fuentes’ company — at a cost of roughly $800,000 — may be unsuitable for medical use. An additional 130,400, worth about $422,000, are not the type specified in the procurement data, the agency said.
What’s more, the masks Fuentes agreed to provide — Chinese-made KN95s — have come under intense scrutiny from U.S. regulators amid concerns that they offered inadequate protection.
“The IHS Navajo Area Office will determine if these masks will be returned,” the agency said in a statement. The agency said it is verifying Fuentes’ company’s April 8 statement to IHS that all the masks were certified by the Food and Drug Administration, and an FDA spokesperson said the agency cannot verify if the products were certified without the name of the manufacturer.
Hospitals in the Navajo Nation, which spans Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, have been desperate for protective supplies as the numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths have grown quickly. As of Friday, the Navajo Nation reported 4,434 COVID-19 cases and 147 deaths, a crisis that has prompted outcries from members of Congress and demands for increased funding.
May 22, 2020
As federal workers file out of the State Department at the end of a Washington workday, an elite group is often just arriving in the marbled, flag-lined lobby: Billionaire CEOs, Supreme Court justices, political heavyweights and ambassadors arrive in evening attire as they’re escorted by private elevator to dinner with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Until the coronavirus shut them down in March, the gatherings were known as “Madison Dinners” — elaborate, unpublicized affairs that Pompeo and his wife, Susan Pompeo, began in 2018 and held regularly in the historic Diplomatic Reception Rooms on the government’s dime.
State Department officials involved in the dinners said they had raised concerns internally that the events were essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo’s political ambitions — complete with extensive contact information that gets sent back to Susan Pompeo’s personal email address. The officials and others who attended discussed the dinners on condition of anonymity.
An NBC News investigation found that Pompeo held about two dozen Madison dinners since taking over in 2018. NBC News obtained a master guest list for every dinner through the end of 2019, as well as internal State Department calendars from before the pandemic emerged, showing that future dinners were on the books through at least October. The master list includes the names of nearly 500 invitees and specifies who accepted, although it is possible some individuals RSVP’d but did not show up in Foggy Bottom for dinner.
The records show that about 29 percent of the invitees came from the corporate world, while about a quarter of them hailed from the media or entertainment industries, with conservative media members heavily represented. About 30 percent work in politics or government, and just 14 percent were diplomats or foreign officials. Every single member of the House or the Senate who has been invited is a Republican. […]
The Madison dinners, which aren’t disclosed on Pompeo’s public schedule, add another element to what his critics say is a pattern of pushing the edge of the envelope by using government resources for potential personal or political gain.
May 19, 2020
Three leading House Democrats said Tuesday that they plan to open an investigation into the replacement of the Transportation Department’s acting inspector general, concerned that the move was tied to an ongoing investigation of Secretary Elaine Chao’s dealings with the state of Kentucky.
Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and has faced questions about whether her department has given preferential treatment to projects in the state.
On Friday, President Trump named Howard “Skip” Elliott, the head of a pipeline safety agency, as acting DOT inspector general. Mitch Behm, the department’s deputy, had been filling that role.
In letter to Chao and Elliott, leaders of the House Oversight and Transportation committees tied Elliott’s appointment to what they called a broad assault by the Trump administration on inspectors general, who serve as internal government watchdogs.
The lawmakers requested information about Chao and her team’s communications with the White House about the decision to replace Behm. They asked Elliott to disclose whether the scope of any of the office’s investigations have changed since his appointment.
“We are concerned that Mr. Behm’s removal could be an effort to undermine the progress of this investigation, which we understand is ongoing,” the lawmakers wrote to Chao. “Any attempt by you or your office to interfere with the Office of Inspector General’s investigation of yourself is illegal and will be thoroughly examined by our Committees.”
May 19, 2020