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Justice Department Officials Announce Charges Against HSBC
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: A US Department of Justice seal is displayed on a podium during a news conference to announce money laundering charges against HSBC on December 11, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. HSBC Holdings plc and HSBC USA NA have agreed to pay $1.92 billion and enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in regards to charges involving money laundering with Mexican drug cartels.Ramin Talaie / Getty Images

Trump's Justice Dept failed to prosecute cabinet members (4 times)

In a normal term, having a cabinet secretary referred to the Justice Department for prosecution would be extraordinary. With Trump, it happened four times.


First, there was Ryan Zinke. Corruption allegations involving Donald Trump's scandal-plagued Interior secretary were referred to Justice Department prosecutors, but Trump's DOJ declined to charge the Montana Republican.

Then there was Alex Acosta, Donald Trump's scandal-plagued Labor secretary, who was also referred to Justice Department prosecutors, only to have Trump's DOJ decline to charge the Florida Republican, too.

And who can forget Robert Wilkie, Donald Trump's controversial VA secretary, who was -- you guessed it -- referred to Justice Department prosecutors, only to have Trump's DOJ choose not to charge him, either.

The Trump administration is obviously over, but it turns out this club has a fourth member.

The Transportation Department's watchdog asked the Justice Department to criminally investigate Elaine Chao late last year over concerns that she misused her office when she was transportation secretary under President Donald Trump but was rebuffed, according to a report released Wednesday.

I hope you saw Rachel's coverage of this last night, but the allegations against Chao are pretty remarkable. Indeed, the list of possible transgressions isn't short.

For example, Chao was accused of retaining shares in a company that supplies road-paving materials, despite the fact that she was the secretary of Transportation. She was similarly accused of, among other things, using her position to arrange official travel and official government meetings intended to benefit her family's business.

Investigators determined that the corruption allegations against Chao were serious enough to be referred to the Justice Department, but as was the case with her scandal-plagued colleagues on the Trump cabinet, federal prosecutors -- politicized to a ridiculous extent in the Trump era -- decided not to pursue the matter.

Naturally, this raises questions about whether, and to what extent, the Republican cabinet secretary may have received preferential treatment.

But it's the larger context that also amazes. In a normal administration, having a cabinet secretary referred by federal investigators to the Justice Department for possible prosecution would've been extraordinary. But in the Trump era, it happened four times.

What's more, each of these controversies were largely overlooked by the public because they were eclipsed by even more dramatic scandals involving the sitting president.

As regular readers may recall, Trump declared with pride in 2019, "There are those that say we have one of the finest cabinets." In reality, no one ever made such an assessment -- and no one ever will.