Jan 9, 2017

GOP Tries to 'Jam' Through Nominees Not Yet Vetted, Ethics Office Warns

Office of Government Ethics has not received even initial draft financial disclosure reports for some of the nominees scheduled for hearings
By Lauren McCauley / commondreams.org
GOP Tries to 'Jam' Through Nominees Not Yet Vetted, Ethics Office Warns
Rex Tillerson, CEO and chairman Exxon Mobil, has been tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the State Department. (Photo: Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

Days before the confirmation process is set to begin, with schedule purposely packed with conflicts, it appears that many of President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet nominees have not been properly vetted despite numerous potential conflicts of interest.

The head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) sent a letter to Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Chuck Schumer (NY) on Saturday expressing "great concern" over the fact that the hearings are set to begin on Tuesday and his office had not yet received financial disclosure reports for some of the scheduled nominees.

"As OGE's director, the announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me," wrote Walter Shaub, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013. wrote in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). 

The current confirmation schedule, which has six nominees scheduled for the same days as well as a Trump press conference and a Senate 'vote-o-rama,' he wrote, "has created undue pressure on OGE's staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews."

"More significantly," Schuab continued, "it has left some of the nominees with with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings. I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process."

As of Saturday, he noted, not all of the nominees scheduled have completed the review. What's more, OGE "has not received even initial draft financial disclosure reports for some of the nominee scheduled for hearings," which seemed to be an unprecedented failure on the part of the nominees as well as the Trump transition team. 

The letter, which was penned in response to an update request from Warren and Schumer, casts doubt on whether the nominees will received a proper vetting, which is particularly concerning because of the many potential conflicts they hold.

Trump's cabinet, slated to be by far the wealthiest in modern history, include numerous billionaires, corporate CEOs, and business people with deep financial ties to the industries they are appointed to govern. As Warren and Schumer wrote to Shaub, "Many of the President-elect's Cabinet nominees are extremely wealth individuals with complex financial situations."

Trump, also said to have the most blatant conflicts of interest for an incoming President, has similarly failed to address or rectify his business entanglements so far.

Warren responded to the letter Saturday saying that her Republican colleagues were trying to "run out the clock" while the nominees "dragged their feet." Schumer last week warned the GOP that any effort to "jam through" Trump's problematic picks would be met with fierce resistance.

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