Texas Official Ousted For Role in Trump Travel Ban

Texas Official Ousted For Role in Trump Travel Ban
YouTube.com via PBSNewsHour
The inspector general of Texas' Health and Human Services Commission has resigned on the heels of an investigation linking him to a firm that successfully lobbied to remove Iraq from President Donald Trump's January travel ban.

Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who had previously worked as an inspector general for the government of Iraq under President George W. Bush, was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to monitor Texas' HHS spending in 2015. According to records obtained by Texas Monthly, however, Bowen began moonlighting with a D.C. law firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, that worked closely with the government of Iraq around the same time.

Offering contract work to a private company alone could have cost Bowen his job. But he entered even riskier territory when the firm used his name to influence Trump's sweeping executive order.

President Trump signed an executive order on January 27 banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iraq, from entering the U.S. A little over two weeks later, according the Monthly's records, the D.C. firm penned a number of letters to Trump officials — including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and now-resigned National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn — asking them to drop Iraq from the list. The letters used Bowen's involvement in the firm as a selling point. 

“Stuart Bowen the former Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction under President Bush and has worked with you in the past, is a senior advisor to our firm,” one letter addressed to Mattis explicitly read.

By March 6, Trump had signed an updated travel ban, excluding Iraq.

Gov. Abbott asked Bowen to resign shortly after Texas Monthly published its findings, according to his press office. In Bowen's May 10 resignation letter to Abbott, he wrote he is leaving “so that I may pursue new opportunities that are before me" and that "now is the right time for transition to new leadership.”

A spokeswoman for the Brownstein firm said Bowen did not provide legal or lobbying services for firm, and has never been an employee of the company. Bowen also claims he did nothing unethical while working for the state. Texas Monthly did find a copy of a contract sent to Bowen by the firm, showing Bowen would be compensated $300 per hour for “business development strategy and consulting services.” But Bowen's signature is missing from the contract.

According to the state agency's office, Deputy Inspector General Sylvia Kauffman has temporarily taken over Bowen's position.
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