A federal watchdog is accusing the Capitol’s architect, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, of ethics violations over offering tours to ‘patriots’ weeks before the November 2020 election.
The Inspector General overseeing J. Brett Blanton, the Capitol’s architect, discovered that one of his immediate family members was offering private tours of the US Capitol in September 2020 when the building was closed due to Covid- 19, according to a recently published report.
A social media post included photos of Blanton and the Capitol Dome family member with a caption reading, “What’s up!!!” and “All PATRIOTS welcome,” according to the report. This comment was later edited to read: “*Patriots=Americans who love America. Not a candidate,” the report said.
The inspector general also accused Blanton of misusing public property and wasting taxpayer money by allowing his family to drive a government-owned vehicle and taking the vehicles on out-of-town trips to South Carolina. and in Florida, according to the report.
While serving on the United States Capitol Police Board and overseeing the Capitol’s property management and operations, Blanton had access to three government-owned vehicles.
“The OIG identified a significant number of administrative, ethical, and policy violations as well as evidence of criminal violations throughout the investigation,” the report said. “Blanton’s actions violated every pillar under which the OIG operates, including theft, fraud, waste and abuse against not only AOC but also the taxpayer,” the report continues, referring to the statement. acronym for the architect of the Capitol.
The Inspector General’s Office referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. and the Eastern District of Virginia, and both offices declined the charges. The inspector general’s investigators also referred their findings to the IRS for possible tax violations and to congressional committees with oversight powers. Investigators wrote that they intended to present the findings of the investigation and possible violations of Virginia law to the Assistant Commonwealth Attorney.
Blanton did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
Inspector General investigators wrote in the report that the Blanton investigation began in March 2021 when a private citizen reported that a woman was driving Blanton’s government-issued SUV recklessly while exiting a Walmart garage, driving 65 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone, and making obscene gestures at another driver.
The investigation determined that the Blanton girls were driving and riding in the SUV, and further, that others had complained in the past.
“Additional evidence and testimony confirmed the AOC vehicles intended for [Home-To-Work] transportation by Blanton were consistently used as personal vehicles by Blanton and his family for weekend trips to a craft brewery, out-of-town trips, and general family use,” the report states.
Investigators also said Blanton allowed his daughters, their friends and a boyfriend free use of a vehicle. According to the report, one of Blanton’s daughters told investigators that she “carried her friends and boyfriend in the vehicle and called the use of the AOC fuel ‘free gas’.”
In about two years, Blanton’s vehicle covered about 30,000 miles, although Blanton should, by policy, only have covered 10,000. This resulted in a waste of nearly $1,400 of taxpayers’ money. , found the investigators.
In one case, investigators said Blanton drove a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee to a beer hall in Leesburg, Va., and was involved in an accident, costing the Capitol architect about $1,400. During the incident, Blanton claimed to be an “agent” and that the government would handle his insurance claim.
Blanton used the same Jeep to pursue a hit-and-run near his home after his daughter’s boyfriend’s car was hit. The police report obtained following this incident identified Blanton as an “off-duty DC police officer”, and the suspect in the incident claimed that Blanton claimed he was a member of the forces of the order.
Blanton’s role as architect of the Capitol includes access to police information but does not grant him police powers.
Each vehicle used by Blanton has an array of emergency equipment, including law enforcement lights and sirens, a United States Capitol Police radio, and a satellite phone.
Despite his use of police-like vehicles, Blanton did not respond to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, the report notes.
Blanton may have intended to misuse more government funds when he asked to remove a GPS tracking device from his vehicle and replace the second-row captain’s chairs with a bench seat.
According to another family member, “it was at the request of his daughters to have more room for the guests”, wrote the investigators.