Top DHS official quit after investigation into expenses of ‘thousands of dollars’ on personal meals – By Anna Giaritelli (Washington Examiner) / Sept 19 2019
Federal investigators last month recommended that the Department of Homeland Security’s top spokesman be fired immediately for charging large sums of personal dining expenses to the government, three officials have told the Washington Examiner.
But Homeland Security acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Andrew Meehan, who resigned amid the investigation, is not due to leave his post until Friday, more than four weeks after his resignation was first reported Aug. 22.
At the time, some senior administration officials claimed the right-hand man to acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan was departing because of friction between the White House and DHS leadership. But several sources said he abruptly resigned in August for a different reason, and the agency’s leaders, including McAleenan, were aware of the investigation and its findings but have not forced him out in the month since then.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where Meehan worked as assistant commissioner of public affairs from May 2018 through April 2019, concluded an internal affairs investigation this summer. Senior agency officials recommended Meehan, who is technically still a Customs and Border Protection employee serving in an acting position as a senior Homeland Security official, be fired immediately for improper use of his government credit card. Customs and Border Protection is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
One official said Meehan, who is 38 and at last count is making an annual salary of $168,000, was expensing “thousands of dollars” of meal costs to the government to the extent the agency had decided in senior-level talks that he needed to be removed. The investigation was kept quiet, and only those at the top of Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security were aware of the investigation’s details and its findings.
Customs and Border Protection declined to comment about why Meehan was not fired or if it has referred the case to the Justice Department for prosecution, saying it does not comment on “individual employee matters.” Meehan and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment. It’s not clear whether Meehan has had access to his expense account since August or if he will have to repay Homeland Security.
Meehan has been on temporary assignment at department’s Washington headquarters since April, when then-CBP Commissioner McAleenan was promoted to acting DHS secretary and soon after brought his communications aide, Meehan, with him to serve in a post meant for an appointee.
A government biography for Meehan indicated the Homeland Security spokesman had no prior public affairs jobs before landing at Customs and Border Protection in 2018 and had worked in various CEO and policy positions for several Washington-based lobbying groups.
The Washington Examiner reported earlier this summer that McAleenan and one senior aide are at the center of a federal investigation into a leak of sensitive law enforcement information that compromised an Immigration and Customs Enforcement nationwide operation targeting illegal immigrants in late June.
McAleenan and Meehan were on a government plane with the reporter, who broke the story a day later. Five officials told the Washington Examiner at the time they believed McAleenan, a long-time Democratic donor whose household made large donations to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, had an aide leak the ICE operation because it risked the safety of the ICE officers.
McAleenan had disagreed in meetings for months about the enforcement plan, but the White House refused to stand down on the operation. But the leak forced then-acting ICE Director Mark Morgan to call it off.
Under McAleenan and Meehan, the department also brought up Jose “Lu” Maheda from the Border Patrol. Maheda is the temporary press secretary in a deputy assistant secretary position that is meant to be filled with a political appointee.
He was revealed by several Border Patrol officials as allegedly having faked a crime, staging a break-in to his own government vehicle while on duty as an agent in the 1990s when he mistakenly thought his gun had been stolen from it. In fact, his supervisor had taken it because Maheda had left it unsecured. Maheda is still on detail to Homeland Security.