Still no ethics review of several Trump cabinet picks ahead of confirmation hearings

(Photo credit: Stephen Melkisethian via Flickr / Creative Commons)

Congressional Democrats introduced legislation today to compel the incoming president and vice president to disclose and divest from any potential financial conflicts of interest. This comes as President-elect Donald Trump continues to ignore calls to put his private assets into a blind trust ahead of taking office. Now, concerns about possible conflicts have extended to the list of cabinet nominees.

Nine confirmation hearings for cabinet positions are scheduled for this week. However, multiple nominees have yet to fully complete the initial background check and vetting paperwork. FSRN’s Robert Packard has more.

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One of Donald Trump’s campaign trail promises was that his administration would subject hopeful refugees to a process of “extreme vetting.” But when it comes to vetting nominees for positions within his cabinet, that process seems decidedly less stringent.

Senate Republicans are moving ahead with an intense schedule of confirmation hearings even though at least four nominees have not completed their ethics review paperwork. The forms include financial disclosures of potential conflicts of interest that could arise in the course of carrying out duties of cabinet positions.

In a letter authored last Friday, the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics said he is unaware 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.”

In the same letter, OGE Director Walter Shaub wrote that his office has not received even initial draft financial disclosure reports from some nominees already scheduled for confirmation hearings.

Referring to the letter, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest called on Republicans to adhere to the same standards they’ve held the Obama Administration to regarding political appointments.

“I don’t know if there have been conversations about the process that is in place for President-elect Trump’s nominees, but I can tell you that over the last eight years, the items that are detailed in this letter have been the subject of thousands of conversations between Capitol Hill and the White House,” Earnest said during Monday’s press briefing. “And the thought that those conversations are no longer going to occur, because Republicans in the Senate are just going to fold, I think does a grave disservice to the American people.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower today there are no plans to delay confirmation hearings. McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is up for a cabinet appointment.

Confirmation hearings begin tomorrow with nominees for the positions of Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security.

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