FEMA director faces investigation at an inconvenient time

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long delivers update on federal actions to support Hurricane Irma response in Washington, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long delivers update on federal actions to support Hurricane Irma response in Washington, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. 

As parts of the east coast brace for Hurricane Florence, it stands to reason that FEMA and its leadership is pretty busy. Politico  reports today, however, that FEMA chief Brock Long is also dealing with an unrelated concern: the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general is conducting an investigation into whether he misused government vehicles.

The actions by Long ... have been called into question by the inspector general over whether taxpayers have inappropriately footed the bill for his travel, an issue that has tripped up a number of current and former top Trump administration officials.Long's travel habits triggered a clash between him and his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, in recent weeks, clouding their relationship just as senior aides close to President Donald Trump prepared for hurricane season. [...]The IG is investigating whether Long misused government resources and personnel on trips back home to Hickory, N.C., on the weekends, said two of the officials.

As revelations go, this one tells us quite a bit: we didn't know Long was under investigation; we didn't know the FEMA director and the Homeland Security director have "clashed"; and it wasn't well known that Long traveled to North Carolina on weekends at taxpayer expense, including making use of a staff driver. (Aides reportedly stayed at a hotel near Long's home, also on our dime.)

Politico's source added that Long's "routine absences from the office due to frequent six-hour drives between North Carolina and Washington also drew Nielsen's attention," raising concerns about the FEMA administrator's "in-office schedule."

Though accounts differ, one official told  Politico that Nielsen asked Long to consider resigning.

NBC News reported earlier today that the FEMA chief acknowledged the probe at a briefing this morning, and vowed to cooperate with investigators. Long added that he believes he did nothing wrong.

As for the bigger picture, Team Trump probably didn't need yet another investigation into a prominent administration official, but apparently, that's exactly what has happened.

NBC News published a list back in April of Trump administration figures “accused of crossing ethical lines,” and the list wasn’t at all short. The president himself, of course, is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation and is accused of ignoring ethics rules, but the list also included familiar controversies involving former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, former HHS Secretary Tom Price, regulatory adviser Carl Icahn, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, former CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

That’s not even an exhaustive list. As we discussed at the time, by my count, I’d also throw in related controversies surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and even former VA Secretary David Shulkin.

If you voted for the Republican ticket in 2016 because you hoped to avoid four years of ethics controversies, I have some very bad news for you.