BREAKING: GOP drop gutting of ethics office, despite Trump's support, following widespread resistance
On Tuesday, House Republicans decided to withdraw a rule that would have gutted the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, and there are already some corporate media outlets who are crediting President-elect Donald Trump for the reversal. But nothing could be further from the truth. Trump and his team defended House Republicans’ secret vote to gut […]
On Tuesday, House Republicans decided to withdraw a rule that would have gutted the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, and there are already some corporate media outlets who are crediting President-elect Donald Trump for the reversal. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Trump and his team defended House Republicans’ secret vote to gut the OCE right from the start.
First, Trump senior advisor and White House Counselor-designate Kellyanne Conway appeared on NBC’s Today Show to explain that congressmen and staffers who are under ethics investigation need protection from overzealous constituents — or, as Conway calls them, “consumers.”
LAUER: Donald Trump ran a campaign, said “I’m going to drain the swamp in Washington.” Doesn’t this do the opposite? How does he feel about it?
CONWAY: It does not, Matt, because I don’t want your viewers to be left with the impression that there’s no mechanism to investigate what I would call consumer complaints, constituent complaints. There’s a new office, and this new office will really cut down on the overzealousness. There have been 100 complaints…
LAUER: Is that office completely independent of Congress?
CONWAY: The office could be.
LAUER: But it’s not now.
CONWAY: They could be. The full Congress has to vote on it today. This was just a particular committee voting by secret ballot. But the full congress will have an opportunity to speak out on this, and to vote today.
LAUER: Will Donald Trump weigh in on this? Excuse me, will he tell them how he feels about it?
CONWAY: He has not at the moment. I’m sure that when he feels the urge to weigh in on something, he certainly does. But let me make very clear: If a constituent has a complaint, they can still lodge that complaint, they just can’t do it anonymously. Many of these people, members and their staffers who have been under investigation, have complained about their due process rights being violated and being compromised. So they need protections, as well.
Make no mistake about it: Conway’s comments were Trump weighing in on it, as she is an official representative of his team. And her comments softened the ground for Republicans to carry out their plan to self-police by casting the OCE as “overzealous,” while leaving room for her boss to maneuver.
And a few hours later, maneuver he did. With Conway already on record about the OCE, Trump tried to have it both ways in a series of tweets that slammed the ethics body as “unfair.”
With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017
……..may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017
Trump is clearly opposed to the independent body, questioning only the timing and urgency of the move to disempower it. Then, without a trace of irony, he concluded those tweets, in which he essentially urges gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics patiently and quietly, with a hashtag meaning “drain the swamp.”
The OCE has made 68 referrals to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct of the United States House of Representatives over the course of eight years. This is hardly “overzealous” by any definition, but especially in regard to the belief that Washington is a “swamp” that needs to be “drained.”
The corporate media immediately took to mischaracterizing Trump’s reaction, casting it as criticism of the move itself, rather than the timing.
Meanwhile, Democrats were fighting back against this move, with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi bluntly stating: “Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”
“Last night House Republicans moved shamelessly to destroy the only independent ethics watchdog in the House of Representatives,” said DCCC Spokesman Tyler Law in a statement. “One must assume that this brazen assault on transparency and good government is aimed at letting Republicans engage in the same corrosive and unethical behavior that led to the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics in the first place. This is a shameless way to start the new Congress and every House Republican should immediately voice public opposition — and ultimately vote against — these shady rule changes.”
DNC Deputy Communications Director Eric Walker released a statement in response to Trump’s tweets, and the misleading treatment they have been getting from the corporate media:
To be clear, Donald Trump did not oppose gutting the Congressional ethics watchdog — in fact, he called the office ‘unfair’ and his top advisor defended weakening the program just this morning. Trump just said it was much more urgent for Republicans to pass massive tax cuts for the wealthy and throw as many as 30 million Americans off their health insurance.
If Donald Trump woke up today suddenly caring about ethics, he should do a few things immediately:
1. Call on his fellow Republicans to not gut the Office of Congressional Ethics.
2. Divest from his businesses and put his assets in a blind trust like every other President in modern history so he does not violate the Constitution’s bribery clause the moment he swears an oath to uphold it.
3. Support an independent investigation the Russian hacking that helped make him President.
Until that happens, any comments Donald Trump makes regarding the ethics of public officials must be understood within the context of his own corruption, and taken with a mountain of salt.
While Democrats pushed back, constituents did their part, too:
House GOP now in closed door meeting. Rep Walter Jones R-NC says his office swamped with calls on ethics changes
— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) January 3, 2017
The results, as my colleague Melissa McEwan notes, ought to speak for themselves:
The Republicans are already signaling that they may eventually follow Trump’s real advice, which was to wait until people were not paying so much attention, but for now, this is a victory for resistance to the unprincipled takeover of our government which is currently underway.
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