They say that in every joke there’s a kernel of truth. But in the Trump administration, you might not even find a kernel in some top officials’ résumés.
On Tuesday it emerged that a top official in the Trump administration added more than a little embellishment to her CV: according to an NBC News investigation, Mina Chang flaunted a Harvard education that in fact amounted to a seven-week course in 2016; she invented herself a role on a UN panel; and even created a fake Time magazine cover with her face on it.
Maybe she was just following in her boss’s footsteps – after all, Trump has shown himself to be partial to fake covers. In 2017, he was asked to remove his own phoney framed Time covers from several of his golf clubs.
But for Chang, the deputy assistant secretary in the state department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, who started her job in April, the Time cover seemingly wasn’t enough.
Chang’s exaggerated claims about being a Harvard alumna are betrayed by her own Linkedin page (which has since been taken down), which shows she undertook an Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School – a seven-week course that costs $82,000.
A Harvard representative who spoke to NBC confirmed that alumni status is given to those who attend the short course, despite them not having degrees from Harvard – making the course all the more attractive for anyone who has cash to burn.
Chang is also accused of having inflated the work of her non-profit, Linking the World. The website for Linking the World is plastered with videos and photos of Chang boasting of her successes. One such video includes an interview with Chang, asking her to talk about making the Time cover – an achievement now known to be fake.
In it, an interviewer says: “Let’s take a look at some pictures you brought with you, of your work around the world” – before displaying the cover on screen.
Chang describes the cover without hesitation, saying: “Well, we started using drone technology in disaster response, and so that was when the whole talk of how is technology being used to save lives in disaster response scenarios … I suppose I brought some attention to that.” A Time magazine spokesperson has since confirmed that the cover is not real.
NBC also reported that Chang claimed to have been involved in a UN panel on the use of drones in humanitarian relief efforts. There was no record to back this up, it said.
Chang was reportedly well connected within the Trump administration, having studied at West Point with Brian Bulatao, a man who formerly worked at the CIA with secretary of state Mike Pompeo and who was nominated to be under-secretary of state for management by Trump in 2018. Bulatao once donated $5,500 to Chang’s charity, according to a former colleague of Chang’s.
Chang reportedly earns a six-figure salary in a bureau with a $6m budget and was originally considered for an even more senior role at USAID, which would have involved overseeing a $1bn budget. Congress is now investigating.