A Watchdog Group Just Called out a Pressing Problem With Trump's Appointments

January 7th 2017

Willie Burnley Jr.

If the incoming administration was hoping to jump right into office, they seem out of luck. The latest news from Capitol Hill is that President-elect Donald Trump and his top cabinet picks are rushing crucial ethics reviews, which is causing concern among officials. 

In a letter released Saturday, Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Governmental Ethics (OGE), said that Senate Republicans were taking the unprecedented step of scheduling confirmations on cabinet appointments before the nominees’ requisite paperwork was submitted.

More than a technical issue, the impact of this lapse is that the ethics office is put under undue pressure to vet whether candidates have conflicts of interests that could bias their agencies.

So far, controversial appointees Senator Jeff Sessions, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, and billionaire Betsy DeVos have confirmation hearings scheduled for next week. Tillerson's business-friendly relationship with Russia, specifically Vladimir Putin, is widely believed to present a potential conflict of interest while Sessions has already submitted paperwork that omits decades of his career - including when he was denied a federal judgeship for being deemed too racist. Tillerson and DeVos, with their incredible wealths and investments, will likely provide similar financial conflicts as the incoming-president.

Shaub pointed out that confirmations before review have never happened before.

In his letter he wrote:

“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.”

If Republican lawmakers actually succeed in pushing through the president-elect’s cabinet without having them properly vetted, they’re sure to face blacklash from Democrats and a possible media firestorm.

The letter is only the most recent in a now growing string of ethical issues for Republicans. On Tuesday, House Republicans were compelled to reverse a move they’d made the previous day to gut the similarly named Office of Congressional Ethics, another independent agency, by leaving it with no power to investigate criminal wrongdoing by members of Congress.