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Trump Swamp: The Transportation Secretary Holds Stock In An Asphalt Company

May 30, 2019 12:42 p.m.

The Kushner family real estate firm has secured $800 million in debt backed by government-owned Freddie Mac, Bloomberg News reported late last week.

There’s hardly two degrees of separation between the parties, and each degree holds enormous sway: Though presidential adviser Jared Kushner claimed upon taking that job to have stepped away from the company — though not entirely — he left his assets and control of the company to close family. Meanwhile, Trump appointee Joseph Otting runs the body, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, that oversees Freddie Mac.

Otting — whose government service we’ve covered here before — used to be business partners with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, in their post-recession days leading the forclosure-happy OneWest Bank in California. And Kushner and Mnuchin are close.

Kushner of course edited and re-submitted his financial disclosure documents so many times you’d think they were a Kanye West album. Rest assured, though: As Kushner said during his “Time 100” interview last month, “I’ve done nothing that’s influenced any of my decisions.”

Speaking of influence: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has kept shares in a construction materials company, Vulcan Materials, more than a year after promising to divest, collecting more than $40,000 in investment gains along the way, The Wall Street Journal reported. Vulcan Materials, the Journal tells us, is “the country’s largest supplier of the crushed stone, sand and gravel used in road-paving and building.”

Apparently, DOT’s ethics officials signed off on the company’s policy of paying out deferred compensation packages in stock, not cash. Chao has said she’s recused herself from matters involving Vulcan, which claims “45% to 55%” of its shipments are to government-funded projects, the Journal reported. But her refusal to cash out $400,000 in stock holdings contrasts with past secretaries of transportation.

“USS John McCain needs to be out of sight”: That was the order from a U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official in an email obtained by the Journal and published Thursday.

According to the paper, the military had learned in conversations with the White House that the President wanted the ship sharing his late Senate rival’s last name out of sight and out of mind during his recent visit to Japan.

The Journal reported that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was aware of the situation and approved “measures to ensure it didn’t interfere with the president’s visit,” in the paper’s words. Shanahan and the Trump later both, perhaps predictably, pleaded ignorance of the story.

Though the McCain was damaged in a deadly collision two years ago and therefore difficult to move out of sight, at least three measures documented by the Journal were taken at various points to obscure the ship: Draping a large tarp over the ship’s side, steering a barge in its way, and giving sailors who would normally wear caps with the McCain name on them the day off during Trump’s visit.

Finally, leave it to the Rick-Perry-led Energy Department to dub liquefied natural gas  “molecules of U.S. freedom.”

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