Amtrak Train 111, which was the first Northeast Regional train out of New York City at 5:30 am this morning, arrives at Union Station May 18, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
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The unsettling details surrounding Trump’s railroad safety chief

The Trump administration has struggled with all kinds of personnel troubles lately, but this Politico piece about Heath Hall points to a different kind of controversy.

A top official charged with overseeing the safety of the nation’s railroads has resigned “effective immediately,” the Department of Transportation said Saturday after POLITICO raised questions about whether he was simultaneously working as a public relations consultant in Mississippi.

The news comes at a time of strain for the Federal Railroad Administration, which hasn’t had a permanent leader for more than a year while it investigates a string of fatal train crashes and deals with a rising trend of rail-related deaths.

As Rachel explained on the show last night, the trouble in this case is that Heath Hall oversaw the Federal Railroad Administration while he maintained an entirely different job: Hall also served as a spokesperson for a local sheriff’s department in Mississippi, home to the public-relations firm he’s run for years.

In fact, Hall reportedly had federal officials help him with his second job, all while he was ostensibly helping oversee the $1.7 billion agency that’s in charge of rail safety for the entire country. No one notified the Department of Transportation about any of this.

Almost immediately after Politico called to inquire about Hall’s two simultaneous jobs, he resigned – suggesting he intended to keep the scheme going until someone finally figured it out.

But before we move on, can we also ask how it is this guy got the job?

Donald Trump nominated someone last summer to head the Federal Railroad Administration: Ronald Batory, and he actually appears to have relevant experience in the industry. Batory has not, however, been confirmed by the Senate, and the FRA has gone without a permanent director for over a year.

And so, that left the deputy director to run the agency. In this case, that meant Heath Hall was in charge, which was problematic not just because he maintained an entirely different job, but also because he had no relevant experience or expertise except for having been an intern at the rail agency.

Or as Rachel put it, “Happy Infrastructure Week from the Trump administration – where the phrase ‘only the best people’ has now become a stomach churning insult.”