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Trump nominee for FEMA post withdraws over travel audit

By: MICHAEL BIESECKER, Associated Press
September 13, 2017 Updated: September 13, 2017 at 2:45 pm
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's nominee to serve as the No. 2 official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency withdrew from consideration Wednesday following questions about a 2011 federal investigation.

Daniel A. Craig dropped out after being asked by NBC News about a 2011 inspector general's investigation that concluded he falsified government travel and timekeeping records while serving at FEMA during the Bush administration. Craig denied wrongdoing, telling NBC the audit was incorrect and the result of poor investigating.

Craig didn't respond to phone messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Asked about the issue on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to directly answer whether the president knew about the past investigation when he nominated Craig.

"We're not going to get into the back and forth," Sanders said, adding that the White House was "not going to go down rabbit holes on personnel" while FEMA is still focusing on recovery efforts from back-to-back hurricanes.

In a subsequent statement, Acting Homeland Secretary Elaine Duke thanked Craig and wished him well.

"Dan has an outstanding background in emergency management and would have been a major asset as FEMA deals with the twin disasters of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma," Duke said. "However, I respect his decision to withdraw from consideration at this time to ensure that the focus on FEMA remains on the lifesaving and community restoring work the agency does so well."

Trump nominated Craig to serve as FEMA's deputy administrator in July. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs had not yet moved forward on his nomination.

The Homeland Security Department's Office of Inspector General did not immediately respond to questions about its 2011 report on Craig, which has not been publicly disclosed.

NBC reported that investigators probed whether Craig, who served as FEMA's recovery director from 2003 to 2005, had violated conflict-of-interest laws in awarding huge FEMA contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. After leaving FEMA, Craig became a lobbyist for a Miami-based law firm working on behalf of a client that secured more than $1 billion in FEMA contracts.

Though investigators concluded there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing on that issue, questions were raised about Craig's spending during that period.

The inspector general's report obtained by NBC alleged that Craig committed travel-voucher fraud, claiming his travel expenses were for official government business when in fact he was interviewing for an outside job.

In an interview with investigators, the FEMA official responsible for signing travel vouchers said that his signature had been forged on Craig's voucher. Craig also reportedly falsified his time and attendance records at FEMA to cover periods during which he was supposed to be at work while he was actually interviewing for potential new jobs.

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