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Ethics office accuses GOP of rushing Trump Cabinet confirmations

The director of the federal Office of Government Ethics Office on Saturday accused Senate Republicans of rushing confirmations for nominees in President-elect Trump’s administration.

In a letter to leading Senate Democrats, Walter Shaub, Jr., the ethics office director, and the busy hearing schedule had overwhelmed his office. He said it had not completed doing ethics screening reviews on several nominees, which he described as a concern.

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“As OGE’s director, the announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me,” Walter Shaub, Jr., said in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Saturday. “This schedule has created undue pressure on OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews.”

Shaub’s letter to the senators comes just days before the Senate is set to hold a flurry of confirmation hearings beginning on Tuesday. In the letter, Shaub said that the schedule could leave some nominees with “potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues.”

“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,” he said.

Shaub was appointed by President Obama to serve as ethics office director in 2013.

The Senate is set to hold hearings for seven of Trump’s cabinet appointees, including some of the president-elect’s most controversial picks, such as ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, whom Trump tapped for secretary of state, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for Attorney General.

Under the 1978 Ethics in Government Act, presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation must file financial and employment disclosures with the OGE, a process that Shaub said “is measured in weeks, not days.”

“This normally intensive process has been complicated by both the Senate hearing schedule and the announcement of nominees prior to consulting OGE for an evaluation of any ethics issues,” Shaub said in the letter. “In the past, the ethics work was fully completed prior to the announcement of nominees in the overwhelming majority of cases.”

The upcoming whirlwind of hearings isn’t the first time the Senate has pushed for such quick confirmations. In 2009, the Democratically controlled Senate confirmed seven of President Barack Obama’s cabinet picks in a single day. But a planned vote on Hillary Clinton’s nomination for secretary of state was put on hold after Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) called for more financial information on the Clinton Foundation.

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