Tuesday, January 10, 2017

4 Of 9 Trump Nominees Set For Hearings This Week Haven’t Completed Ethics Disclosures

WASHINGTON ― Senate confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks are set to begin just hours from now. But four of the nine Trump nominees scheduled for hearings this week still haven’t disclosed key financial information to the Office of Government Ethics, which is charged with making sure they don’t break federal ethics laws.

Of the four nominees who had not submitted their ethics paperwork as of Monday afternoon, two of them ― Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross and Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos ― are billionaires who have never worked in government.

“The announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me,” Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub wrote in a letter to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Saturday. It would “be cause for alarm,” Shaub added, “if the Senate were to go forward with hearings on nominees whose reports OGE has not certified.”

The other two nominees who haven’t yet submitted financial disclosures are former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, picked to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, chosen to head the Department of Homeland Security. Neither man is nearly as wealthy as Ross or DeVos.

Until 2015, Kelly received a salary from the U.S. Marine Corps and was effectively prohibited from drawing income from the private sector. Carson already submitted detailed financial disclosure forms to the Federal Election Commission as part of his presidential campaign. They reveal that Carson’s wealth is derived largely from speaking fees and book sales.
The Trump nominees’ failure to fully comply with the normal procedure for ethics vetting prior to their confirmation hearings is raising alarm bells for the OGE and independent ethicists. Federal law requires presidential nominees to divest holdings that may conflict with their official duties. The OGE works with presidential transition teams to ensure that the incoming nominees avoid potential violations of criminal conflict-of-interest laws. This process “stops potential conflicts from becoming actual conflicts,” the agency tweeted on Thursday.  
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