Extreme lack of vetting for Trump cabinet nominees

The Washington Post reports: A top ethics official has warned that plans to confirm Donald Trump’s top Cabinet choices before background examinations are complete are unprecedented and have overwhelmed government investigators responsible for the reviews.

The concerns prompted Democrats on Saturday to call for delaying the confirmation process, but Republicans signaled they are unlikely to budge on the eve of a slew of hearings in the Senate.

The Trump administration-in-waiting faces its first big test in coming days, with as many as seven nominees for Cabinet positions — many of them already the subject of questions about their qualifications — scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill.

The process begins Tuesday, when Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s controversial nominee for attorney general, is scheduled to begin two days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the big show is planned for Wednesday, when five hearings are scheduled, bringing a marathon of nationally televised scrutiny to the thin public records and vast wealth of many of Trump’s Cabinet picks.

Democrats have vowed to cast the hearings as a proxy test of Trump himself, in hopes of discrediting his new government before it begins. They hope to remind the public of the president-elect’s own lack of government experience and reluctance to separate himself from an entanglement of global business interests while he leads the nation.

But even Democrats acknowledge that Trump’s slate of Cabinet picks will probably sail through. The packed schedule, similar to those for nominees of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was orchestrated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Trump team. In addition, Trump has scheduled a news conference Wednesday that will overlap with several hearings, at which he has promised to talk about separating his presidency from his business interests.

Whether the schedule holds in the coming days is unclear. McConnell’s office declined to respond to warnings by Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, who said in a letter released Friday the current confirmation calendar is “of great concern to me” because nominees have not completed a required ethics review before their hearings.

The schedule “has created undue pressure on OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews,” Shaub wrote in response to an inquiry by Democratic senators. “More significantly, it has left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings.”

Shaub added: “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.” [Continue reading…]

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