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Ethics officials express 'great concern' over Trump Cabinet vetting


Eric DuVall
President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence pose with Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos after a meeting in November. DeVos is one of several Trump Cabinet designees whose confirmation Democrats are seeking to delay after government ethics officials said they have not commpleted reviews for potential conflicts of interest. File Pool photo by Aude Guerrucc/UPI
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A nonpartisan government ethics office said the potential for President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees to be approved before vetting for potential ethical violations or conflicts of interest is "of great concern."
Several of Trump's Cabinet choices have confirmation hearings on the Senate calendar already, including six on Wednesday and several more before Trump's inauguration Jan. 20.
In a letter to Senate leaders on Saturday, Walter Shaub, Jr., the director of the Office of Government Ethics, said he was concerned that financial filings from several of Trump's Cabinet choices have not been completed and ethics monitors are lacking information from the nominees to finish the reviews before the confirmation hearings are held.
Shaub said the ethics reviews are a process that normally takes "weeks, not days."
"The announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me. This schedule has created undue pressure on OGE's staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews," Shaub wrote. "More significantly, it has left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the effort by Trump and Republicans to "jam through" nominees is "unprecedented." Democrats have called for the hearings to be put off until the ethics office has had the time to complete thorough reviews.
Shaub said earlier this month there have been problems communicating with Trump's transition team. Typically, presidential transitions begin the ethical vetting process with Shaub's office before a nominee is named publicly. In Trump's case, the nominees have been revealed before any ethical vetting has begun, slowing down a process that takes on average 40 days to complete.
For several of Trump's Cabinet choices, the vetting process is particularly complicated because the nominees are billionaires with vast business ties and investment holdings that could make for potential conflicts of interest if those assets are not divested before they begin working on behalf of the public.
Both former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump's Secretary of State designee, and Betsy DeVos, his pick to run the Department of Education, have vast business ties and are scheduled for Senate confirmation hearings.


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