The head of the federal agency charged with vetting President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks says his office is unlikely to complete its ethics reviews ahead of confirmation hearings in the Senate.
The schedule of hearings “is of great concern to me” and “has left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues,” Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, wrote to two Democratic senators and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a letter released Saturday.
Senate Republicans are moving quickly to review Trump’s nominees and have scheduled six confirmation hearings for Wednesday — the same day Trump is slated to hold his first news conference since capturing the presidency.
Shaub said the Trump transition also broke with tradition and did not pre-clear any of its Cabinet picks with his office before announcing them publicly. The office performs reviews aimed at helping executive branch officials avoid potential ethical and financial problems.
In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., seized on the letter to argue that Senate Republicans and Trump are seeking “to jam through these cabinet nominees before they’ve been thoroughly vetted.”
McConnell aides did not have immediate comment Saturday afternoon on Shaub’s letter.
Trump has assembled what would be the richest Cabinet in U.S. history. It includes billionaires, such as Wilbur Ross, his pick for Commerce secretary, and Betsy DeVos, the choice to run the Department of Education.
His Cabinet’s wealth and Trump’s own far-flung business interests have put a spotlight on the work of Shaub’s little-known agency, which is charged with ensuring that everyone from high-ranking political appointees to government researchers avoids conflicts of interest.
The president and vice president are not subject to the ethics rules that govern others in the executive branch. Trump is slated to detail how he will avoid potential conflicts during Wednesday’s news conference in New York.
Shaub has publicly declared that Trump should divest himself of his business interests and also directed a tweet storm on the agency’s Twitter feed in November, celebrating Trump’s declaration that he planned to leave his real-estate empire.