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‘Unprecedented’ ethics complaints from Democrats unfounded, source says

“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,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

January 08, 2017

Democrats may be wrong in claiming its “unprecedented” that some of President-elect Trump’s Cabinet nominees may be pushed through the Senate before being vetted in an ethics review process.

Democrats began making the argument after the revelation that the Office of Government Ethics had not finished vetting the nominees. But the unprecedented claim could be a bridge too far.

A Senate Republican source tells the Washington Examiner that back in 2001, Rod Paige, President George W. Bush’s pick to head the Education Department, participated in his confirmation hearing an entire week before his OGE paperwork was received by the committee. Paige was later confirmed and served four years as education secretary.

The revelation about Paige would fly in the face of what OGE Director Walter Shaub said in a letter to Democrat senators who requested information about the ethics office’s work.

“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,” Shaub said in the letter made public Saturday by Sen. Chuck Schumer,(D-NY.).

“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,” the New York Democrat said in a statement.

The other senator who received the letter, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, tweeted Saturday, “Confirmation hearings historically aren’t conducted until the @OfficeGovEthics certifies that each nominee has no unresolved conflicts.”

“Cabinet officials must put our country’s interests before their own,” the senator continued. “No conf hearings should be held until we’re certain that’s the case.”

The Democratic National Committee called on Senate Republicans to delay the Trump nominee hearings, scheduled to begin next week.

“It is unprecedented and deeply worrisome to hold confirmation hearings on President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees before basic ethics reviews are completed,” said DNC National Press Secretary Adrienne Watson in a statement.

CNN reported Saturday that the nominees in question are Trump’s picks to lead the Homeland Security Department (John Kelly), Education Department (Betsy DeVos), Commerce Department (Wilbur Ross) and Housing and Urban Development (Ben Carson), citing a Senate Democratic source.

Reports from Politico and the Washington Post state that DeVos did submit her financial disclosure forms to OGE in December and a GOP source tells the Washington Examiner that an adequate amount of paperwork has been received to carry on with her confirmation hearing scheduled for Jan. 11 before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. Chairman Lamar Alexander will require that OGE paperwork be completed before a vote takes place, according to Politico.