White House Discussed Replacing FEMA Administrator Brock Long Amid Ethics Investigation: Report

The White House urged Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) director Brock Long to resign and considered replacements as an internal ethics watchdog group investigates him, according to a report in the The Wall Street Journal.

The investigation, first reported by Politico on Thursday, is being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general into Long's possible misuse of government vehicles and taxpayer money to travel from Washington, D.C., to his home in Hickory, North Carolina.

Long reportedly made frequent trips home, a six-hour car ride, using government vehicles and personnel. The government employees were then placed in hotels during his time at home using taxpayer money. The investigation was opened after Long was reportedly involved in an accident with one of the vehicles.

Neither FEMA nor the inspector general's office responded to Newsweek's questions on Thursday about the incident.

During a press briefing on Hurricane Florence Thursday, Long acknowledged the investigation and said he would fully cooperate.

"I would never intentionally run a program incorrectly," Long said. "Doing something unethical is not part of my DNA and it is not part of my track record in my whole entire career. We will work with the OIG [office of the inspector general]."

The Trump administration had begun discussing replacements for the man in charge of the response to Hurricane Florence, even as the powerful hurricane approached the Carolinas, according to a senior White House official cited by the The Wall Street Journal.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also urged Long to resign if the preliminary findings of the investigation she showed him were true, according to one administration official. But another administration official said that was not true. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly decided to leave Long in his position until the final report was published.

Politico's report on Thursday suggested there's been clashes between Long and Nielsen over his frequent trips to his North Carolina home and his absence from the office.

FEMA, which is managed under DHS, was found to have shifted money from the administration to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon revealed documents on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show which said the Trump administration requested $10 million be taken from the disaster relief organization earlier this year and transferred to ICE in order to provide more funding for the detention of migrants who illegally cross the border.

Long accused Merkley of "playing politics" the next day on MSNBC and said the transfer of funds would not impact the administration's $15 billion budget.

"Right now, that money has nothing to do with what you see behind us," Long said from FEMA's response center in Washington. "It does not pay for this response, it is not coming out of the disaster relief fund, it has no impact on our efforts to be prepared for Hurricane Florence. Unfortunately, we have a congressman that is playing politics on the back of Florence. There's no story there."

FEMA's prior leader, Scott Pruitt, resigned from his role in July after multiple reports surfaced alleging improper spending.