The White House says it will leave the nomination process “in progress” after Biden’s FAA pick is named in the search warrant.



CNN

The White House plans to allow President Joe Biden to proceed with the nomination process for Phil Washington to be the next administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration after his name appeared in the latest search warrant issued as part of a political corruption investigation in Los Angeles. Angeles.

The warrants — issued earlier this month at multiple locations, including the home of District 3 Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl — sought more information related to possible favoritism in the awarding of contracts by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The contracts were the only source for a nonprofit run by a friend of Kuehl’s.

The non-profit organization, Peace Over Violence, created a sexual harassment hotline with the transit authority. A copy of the warrant posted on the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s website shows the department is seeking correspondence from several individuals, including Washington.

Washington served as the transit authority’s CEO for six years, and the whistleblower’s allegations set forth in the order accuse him of pursuing a nonprofit contract to stay “in good standing” with Kuehl, one of his direct supervisors. The warrant also alleges that Washington ordered the nonprofit to pay a $75,000 bill through a purchase order process normally reserved for office supplies.

“The witness further testified that Phillip Washington directly told him that he was willing to pay $75,000 so that he could later use it to his own advantage … when he needed Kuehl’s political favor,” the warrant stated.

Washington, now CEO of Denver International Airport, is denying the allegations laid out in the order, telling Bloomberg News on Thursday: “All the allegations are false.” CNN has reached out to Washington for comment.

The phone has been criticized for being a high cost to taxpayers. In 2020, a FOX 11 investigation reported that the hotline cost taxpayers about $8,000 per call, based on the small number of relevant calls related to sexual harassment.

Peace Over Violence defended its work, saying in a statement to Fox 11 in 2020: “This estimate of $8,000 per call is social math that does not represent the seriousness of sexual harassment or the seriousness of the problem. . . . Under our contract, we reach the phone all calls are legitimate. POV reports sexual harassment calls to Metro as per their mandate. We cannot put a price on serving a survivor of violence and there are no fees associated with our hotline. We are here for callers 24/7 to serve. This is not a fee per survivor service. Metro pays for the program, not per survivor.”

CNN Peace Over Violence has been contacted for comment.

Biden nominated Washington to lead the FAA in July. Asked to comment on the order and whether the president still has confidence in the FAA nominee, a White House official told CNN: “His nomination is going through the Senate and will be evaluated through that process. We’ll let that process play out, but we don’t have anything further.” ».

Washington has not yet scheduled a confirmation hearing, and the top Republican on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee – which is considering his nomination – expressed concern after learning of the order this week.

“When Mr. Washington was nominated in July, I expressed my skepticism about his lack of aviation experience. I am now deeply troubled to learn that the nominee was named in a search warrant linking him to allegations of LA Metro corruption,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a statement.

Wicker added, “The board’s vetting process will require further examination and review of his leadership in LA Metro. I anticipate that the credibility of this candidate will also be a major focus of the board.”

Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, the chairwoman of the committee, told CNN in a statement: “The FAA needs strong leadership, and safety must always be a top priority. Each nominee for this critical position is subject to the confirmation process, which includes a careful and thorough review of the individual’s qualifications. Mr. Washington’s appointment and all his background is now undergoing that process.’

Washington was named CEO of Denver International Airport last year – the third busiest airport in the world. He also led the Biden-Harris Department of Transportation transition team and chaired the Biden/Harris Infrastructure Policy Committee.

The Denver Airport role was Washington’s first leadership role focused solely on aviation. Some critics, including Wicker, have expressed skepticism about Washington’s retention of the nomination, based on the broader lack of experience of the aviation industry.

However, before the order was announced, Washington had already secured the support of industry groups. John Hickenlooper, Democrat of Colorado and a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, remains on Washington’s side after the order, his office told CNN.

The search warrant is the latest development in an ongoing feud between Kuehl, his colleagues on the county board of supervisors and LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

Villanueva has been embroiled in several controversies during his tenure as sheriff and has a history of hitting out at reporters and critics. Kuehl, a staunch critic of Villanueva, has said he has nothing to do with the contract, and has suggested he is being targeted.

“The basis of this search was questionable and will be investigated. Deputies wearing bulletproof vests and tactical gear raiding my home this morning was an effort to harass, intimidate and retaliate against a public figure who has been a vocal critic of Alex Villanueva,” Kuehl tweeted, adding, “My search early this morning. This was an egregious attempt to intimidate and silence not only myself, but many other public officials who are working hard to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities it is supposed to serve.”

Villanueva has recused himself from the investigation.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon he said in a statement that they did not know or consult about the search warrant in advance, and that they did not review the warrant before executing it “they have no intention of defending it if it is challenged in court.” Gascon added that his office reviewed the case last year and “determined that the state of the evidence at that time did not prove criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt.”