Washington (CNN)One of Defense Secretary James Mattis’ most senior civilian advisers is being investigated by the Defense Department Office of Inspector General for allegedly retaliating against staff members after she used some of them to conduct her personal errands and business matters, according to four sources familiar with the probe.Dana White, the Trump administration political appointee who serves as the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, has been under investigation for several weeks after multiple complaints were filed against her.White is alleged to have misused support staff, asking them, among other things, to fetch her drycleaning, run to the pharmacy for her and work on her mortgage paperwork. Staffers also charge that she inappropriately transferred personnel after they filed complaints about her.White has not been found in violation of any federal regulation or policy at this point. The inspector general’s office declined to comment.As many as half a dozen defense personnel, and possibly more, have been interviewed, the sources say. All the officials CNN spoke to asked that their names be withheld, not just because the investigation remains ongoing, but because of concerns about reprisal.
Dry cleaning and lunch runs
White did not respond to CNN’s request for comment about the allegations. Charles Summers, the principal deputy assistant to the secretary for public affairs, said: “This is an ongoing review about which we cannot comment.” White became spokeswoman in April 2017 and reports directly to Defense Secretary James Mattis.Pentagon ethics standards state that “a DoD official may not direct or request subordinates to use official time to perform any activities other than official activities.”CNN was told that some staffers did White’s errands and personal chores voluntarily because they thought she was very busy during the work day. But department standards are iron-clad: They apply even if a staff member doesn’t object to performing non-official tasks.Multiple officials tell CNN that White on occasion told her staff to fetch her dry cleaning, purchase personal items for her and drive her to work on snowy days. After a complaint, White reimbursed a staffer for the cost of mileage incurred driving her to the Pentagon.One staff member made repeated trips to the pharmacy inside the Pentagon to purchase snacks and pantyhose for White. Staffers were repeatedly dispatched to the cafeteria to get her lunch, the officials say.Those officials say the IG is looking into allegations that White also directed military and civilian staff to work on her mortgage application and other personal financial paperwork, and arrange her personal leisure travel. They say the IG is also looking into allegations that White had staff make numerous appointments with her personal hair and makeup artist, whose services she paid for herself, to come to her home and Pentagon office.
A request to review ethics rules
Many of the allegations center on the months prior to May 2018. Matters came to a head that month, when at least two staffers raised concerns with more senior officials about White’s use of their time. The staffers were transferred soon after and complained to the IG that they were moved in reprisal for their complaints.CNN has reviewed information that confirms the IG is looking at many of the events described for potential misuse of staff. CNN has also learned from sources familiar with the matter that White had been told certain requests to staff were not allowed and that she subsequently asked to review ethics rules so she could stay within the Pentagon’s guidelines.All the allegations against White, if proven, would be administrative violations. But the probe makes White just the latest in a series of Trump associates and appointees to face scrutiny for their conduct.White used to hold regular televised press briefings, but has not appeared since May. It is not clear if that is related to the investigation. Reporters have been told the White House wanted to see more briefings by senior uniformed officers.
White previously served as a foreign policy adviser to Sen. John McCain of Arizona, worked on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee and as a director of communications for the Renault-Nissan Alliance in France. She also served an earlier stint at the Pentagon, working as Taiwan country director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.After the inspector general’s office concludes its probe, it will forward a report to Mattis that details whether any of the allegations are considered misconduct and also details charges that aren’t found to have merit.In IG investigations, allegations of wrongdoing are not always substantiated.The final report could include recommendations on how to proceed, but it would be up to Mattis to decide what, if anything, to do, officials say.There is no indication that Mattis was aware of White’s alleged violations prior to the investigation.
CEO Richard Liu wasn’t charged in the US, but back in China people are still weighing his case
Hong Kong (CNN Business)Richard Liu won’t face sexual assault charges in the United States, but the tech billionaire is having to contend with a renewed bout of public scrutiny at home in China.Prosecutors in Minnesota said Friday that they won’t file charges against Liu, the CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com (JD) who was arrested in August on suspicion of rape.Liu’s case has gripped China, where billionaire company founders often enjoy celebrity status. Social media users have been sounding off in large numbers about the prosecutors’ announcement and Liu’s response.The business leader, whose Chinese name is Liu Qiangdong, said in a statement that the prosecutors’ decision “proves I broke no law.” He went on to apologize for his “interactions” with the young woman who accused him of rape, saying his actions had hurt his family and his wife.
JD.com founder Richard Liu with his wife Zhang Zetian. Liu says his actions in the United States “have hurt my family greatly, especially my wife.”Many users said that while Liu, 45, may not have been charged, he still deserves censure for cheating on his wife, Zhang Zetian.”Liu Qiangdong is not guilty, that is the legal judgment. But there is morality behind the law. As a public figure, he should have higher requirements for his words and deeds,” said a widely shared post by China Women’s News, the news outlet of a women’s rights organization backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.Zhang, 25, is a popular figure in China. Before she met Liu, she gained internet fame when a picture of her holding a cup of milk tea went viral, earning her the nickname “Sister Milk Tea.” Zhang could not be reached for comment.
Fellow tech entrepreneur calls actions ‘harmless’
People argued on Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese social media platform, over what the outcome of the months-long investigation by police and prosecutors meant for Liu.Some users suggested his reputation has been irreparably damaged. But there were others who defended him, including one fellow tech entrepreneur.
JD.com founder will not be charged with sexual assault”It wasn’t sexual assault, just extramarital sex, harmless to shareholders and employees,” wrote Li Guoqing, a co-founder of online book seller Dangdang.com.”It wasn’t an extramarital affair, just sex, low impact to his wife,” he added in a post that drew criticism from other users.Dangdang quickly distanced itself from Li’s comments, posting a statement on its official Weibo account saying that he plays no meaningful role in the company’s management. Dangdang was acquired by a subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate HNA in April.Liu said in his statement that he feels “deep regret and remorse” and that he hopes his wife “can accept my sincere apology.””I will continue to try in every possible way to repair the impact on my family and to fulfill my responsibility as a husband,” he added.
Battered JD shares rebound
The allegations against Liu have weighed on his company’s share price for months.JD.com’s Nasdaq-listed stock closed up about 6% on Friday after prosecutors declined to press charges, but it’s still down more than 30% since his arrest. Like many other Chinese stocks, it has come under pressure from concerns about the country’s economic slowdown and trade war with the United States.
After news of Richard Liu’s arrest hit China, hundreds of millions of people shared his police mug shot on social media.Liu’s case was particularly significant for JD because of the power he wields as its founder. He holds a large majority of the company’s voting rights, giving him control over key decisions.The CEO was in Minneapolis in August because he was enrolled in a doctorate program in business administration at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. His accuser, a Chinese woman, was studying at the university.The Minnesota prosecutors said they found “profound evidentiary problems” that would have made it hard to build a criminal case against Liu.The Chinese executive maintains that the sex with the young woman was consensual. The student, who was 21 years old at the time of the alleged assault, said Liu raped her at her off-campus apartment after a group dinner. Liu was arrested the same night, but police let him go the following day without charging him or asking for bail.He quickly returned to China after his release, where millions of Weibo users were sharing the police mugshot of him dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit.