Ethics office: Trump nominees still not properly vetted

Posted at 4:50 PM, Jan 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-07 16:50:32-05

(CNN) — Several of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees have still not been properly vetted less than one week before hearings begin on Capitol Hill, the Office of Government Ethics said in a letter to Democratic senators Friday.

“The announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me,” OGE Director Walter M. Shaub wrote in a letter to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “This schedule has created undue pressure on OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews.”

Shaub — who said OGE hasn’t received initial drafts from some nominees — continued: “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.”

BEDMINSTER TOWNSHIP, NJ – NOVEMBER 19: (L to R) president-elect Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos pose for a photo after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, November 19, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The nominees in question, according to a Senate Democratic source, are Trump’s pick to lead Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly; Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos; Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross; and Ben Carson, whom Trump has tapped to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Nominees who are appointed by the President to positions that require Senate confirmation have to obtain OGE’s certification of their financial disclosure reports. And nominees must also “make current” their financial disclosure reports by the date of the hearing, added Shaub, who said it would be “cause for alarm” if the Senate proceeded with hearings before OGE has certified nominees’ reports.

The letter was released by Schumer’s office, and the Senate Democratic leader blasted Trump’s transition team and Senate Republicans over the matter.

“The Office of Government Ethics letter makes crystal clear that the transition team’s collusion with Senate Republicans to jam through these cabinet nominees before they’ve been thoroughly vetted is unprecedented,” Schumer said.

“The Senate and the American people deserve to know that these cabinet nominees have a plan to avoid any conflicts of interest, that they’re working on behalf of the American people and not their own bottom line, and that they plan to fully comply with the law. Senate Republicans should heed the advice of this independent office and stop trying to jam through unvetted nominees.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office declined to comment Saturday.