'Donald Trump's transport secretary designated a special liaison to help with grant applications from her senator husband’s state, paving the way to fund projects worth $78m (£62m), it has been reported.
Elaine Chao personally asked a Department of Transportation aide to serve as an intermediary and advisor to Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and his Kentucky state officials, according to emails seen by Politico.
The projects funded – as Mr McConnell prepared to campaign for re-election – reportedly included road improvements in Republican political strongholds for which grant applications had previously been rejected.
Walter Shaub, a former director of the US Office of Government Ethics, described the arrangement as “the sort of thing that should lead to the impeachment" of an official.
“We are now a full-fledged banana republic,” the vocal Trump critic added.
Ms Chao and her aide, Todd Inman, have reportedly met annually with a delegation from Owensboro, a river port city in Kentucky that has long connections with Mr McConnell, over the last three years.
In their April 2017 meeting, according to people present, they discussed two projects of local economic importance – a plan to upgrade road connections to a commercial port and a proposal to reclassify a major road a branch of motorway.
Following the meeting, Mr Inman is said to have emailed the port authority with advice on how to improve its application. He also allegedly discussed the project by phone with Al Mattingly, the chief executive of Daviess County, which includes Owensboro.
Mr Mattingly said Mr Inman had been instrumental in helping to secure the DOT grant.
“Todd probably smoothed the way, I mean, you know, used his influence,” he told Politico. “Everybody says that projects stand on their own merit, right? So if I’ve got 10 projects, and they’re all equal, where do you go to break the tie?'
Read more: US 'now a full-fledged banana republic' after Mitch McConnell wife $78 million grants revelation
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